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2008 Spring Concert

 

 

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The Beaminster Singers 20th anniversary concert in St Mary’s church was a triumphant celebration.  To a packed house (sold out well before the night) the 60-strong choir, together with four visiting soloists, an orchestra of 30 players and brand-new organ, performed an ambitious programme of church music, of varying date and character.

During the Te Deum in D by Marc-Antoine Charpentier – the earliest of the evening’s works – the church resounded to some full-bodied orchestration, with prominent timpani and brass. The soloists  - bass Timothy Dickinson, tenor Martin Hindmarsh, soprano Pippa Goss, and alto Lucie Spickova - were knee-to-knee with the front row of the audience because of the pressure on space, but this only added to the sense of involvement that gripped us throughout the evening. Alex McCallum, from the choir’s own sopranos, took her place beside the professional soloists, contributing a rounded sound that was as impressive as her self-possession.

In Zadok the Priest by Handel we were reminded that the immediacy of a live performance at close quarters is the best possible corrective for the dimming effect of familiarity on overpopular works.  The singers’ enthusiasm combined with their discipline under the hand of musical director Hilary Kenway gave this exciting piece a dramatic conviction that was entirely fresh.

After the interval a promised surprise was revealed: Morte Christe, a 1965 arrangement of the 18th century hymn When I survey the wondrous cross, in the Welsh tradition by Emrys Jones for male voice choir. The tenors and basses sang this ‘meditation’ with a balanced and contemplative calm that combined richness with restraint to bewitching effect.  

But it was Mozart’s Requiem that provided the biggest experience of the evening.  This huge work, so profound and so familiar, needs resources and abilities to match its scale, and the Beaminster Singers proved that they are now well equal to its demands. Hilary Kenway’s energetic direction bound the orchestra, soloists and choir into a single organism whose pleasure in performing was as plain as its seriousness of purpose. The occasional trip-up did nothing to dent the sense of conviction and coherence that pervaded  the whole performance, and when the final section closed, the audience responded with an enthusiasm that surely expressed their own sense of pride in the Beaminster Singers.

At this point in their twenty-year development, the very success of the group produces its own challenges: there may not be enough room in the audience for everyone who wants to listen and not enough room in the choir for everyone who wants to sing. But as a unifying focus for a wide variety of local talents - not only musical  -  it continues to enlarge its scope, to raise its standards and to provide access to music at a high level for performers and consumers alike.

Deborah Chorlton