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2007 Autumn Concert

 

 

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A Beaminster Singers concert always brings a sense of occasion. On Saturday 24 November St Mary’s church was crammed with a capacity audience for a programme that was festive without being cosy.

The concert began with the Mozart Te Deum, always new in its abundance of melody and variety of tempo and harmony.  In spite of an intensive day of rehearsal in which singers and orchestra had come together for the first time, the choir under the energizing hand of Musical Director Hilary Kenway started with an appetite and commitment that swept up the audience at once. The charm of the piece was given weight and seriousness too by the choir’s clarity, as they sang the Latin text with an evident sense of the meaning of the words.  It is a joyful work by an extremely young person, and it was good to see some young faces in the choir too.

In the less familiar Motets of Durufle - based upon Gregorian themes but written in 1960   without any suggestion of pastiche - the strands of the complex structures were kept admirably distinct under the Director’s analytical control. Hilary’s ladies were perhaps more visibly attentive to her direction than her men - a difference noticeable in their eye-contact, not in their sound, which was flexible and balanced throughout.

In the Bach cantata that followed, the iconic Christmas chorale theme Wachet auf  alternated in successive movements with two bewitching duets for bass (John Clarke) and soprano (Alison Hill, making a welcome reappearance with the Beaminster Singers).The testing oboe obbligato was played with fluid delicacy by Caroline Page, and the whole orchestra showed to advantage in the chorale recapitulation that separates the two duets, firmly supporting the tenor recitative sung with simple eloquence by Richard Rowntree. The final movement, presenting the chorale theme for the last time, ended in a shining and rapturous climax.

The surprise of the evening (at least to this listener) was Haydn’s The Tempest, a kind of cantata oddly called a ‘madrigal’ by Haydn. Changing gear and bolstering the orchestration, the performers burst out in technicolor with trumpets and timpani portraying every kind of climatic violence.  Between the stormy blasts intervals of beatific calm were announced in the text and promptly reflected in the tempo and orchestration. The ladies seemed more willing than the men to allow the change to appear in their faces as well as their voices, but the clear diction and caressing gentleness of the whole choir’s sound quite belied any air of masculine reserve.

With Schubert’s Mass in C the audience surrendered to the sheer beauty of the music.   Beaminster Singers own accomplished mezzo soprano Estelle Wood joined the visiting soloists for the quartet sections, full of Schubert’s melodic facility and accessible charm, contrasting with the more solemn choral episodes. 

Beaminster singers concerts always bring the community together, and tonight Hilary Kenway underlined the close relationships that gather round a group like this by her dedication of the Schubert mass to the memory of John Learmont, whose recent death deprived the choir of one of its best loved members.

Deborah Chorlton