2006 Autumn Concert
St Mary's Church in Beaminster was packed last Saturday night for the Autumn concert of the Beaminster Singers, giving their most ambitious presentation to date.
The choir has grown large enough to tackle major choral works, and proved its worth in an enjoyable, moving performance of Brahms German Requiem - one of the most demanding choral pieces in the common repertoire.
Under director Hilary Kenway's enthusiastic and dedicated leadership the Singers showed a discipline worthy of any London choir. This was apparent right from the start when they gave us Haydn's "Little Organ Mass" as an entrée to the Brahms main course.
Intonation was spot on, especially where sopranos and altos were in close harmony. With fewer tenors and basses in their choir their lines were inevitably not so clear, but this didn't get in the way of a lively performance.
The music was full of dramatic contrasts in volume, all effectively rendered, and the singers' ability to all be exactly together on the beat was equally impressive.
I particularly liked Anthony Saunders' organ accompaniment: - subtle, but so supportive - no mean feat to accomplish.
Elizabeth Weisberg proved a powerful soloist and the interplay between her melody line and the rather florid organ accompaniment was a joy to listen to.
In the Brahms Requiem the choir was solid and competent. The intensely moving chorus "Behold, all flesh is as the grass" is a difficult piece to bring across because there are frequent changes of pace. Both choir and orchestra were prone to an occasional wobble at this point, either in pace or in tentative entries, though not so much as to spoil the drama of the music.
John Clarke was a worthy Baritone soloist with a rich voice and total command of his lines.
The best known chorus from the work "How lovely are Thy dwellings", was excellently sung, and followed by the heartrendingly beautiful solo "Ye now have sorrow" with soprano, choir and orchestra in perfect balance.
The final two movements in the Requiem are a punishing sing, and there were a few lapses in concentration among both orchestra and choir, but these did nothing to undermine the majesty of the work as a whole.
Both choir and conductor must have been exhausted by the end of the evening, but can reflect on a worthy performance of one of the greatest pieces of choral music before an appreciative audience.