Saturday 3 December 2011
Finchley Choral Society
St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill
Haydn Mozart Schubert
St Mary the Virgin is a strangely down at heel building of chipped paint, age settled dust on whitewashed pillars ... and a broken organ. But it has the feel of a congregation that puts its ministry before appearance.
Scheduled to provide accompaniment, the organ failure meant that Richard Harvey was instead given a wonderful Bechstein piano. There was also a last-minute substitution as the brilliant Elizabeth Poole took over the soprano roles. And, following a gloriously Happy Event on the eve of the concert, the regular conductor Grace Rossiter handed her baton to the multi-talented Patrick Russil.
In the first piece, the wonderful Amens of Mozart's Sancta Maria, mater dei had the audience's hairs standing on the back of our collective necks. His much better known Ave Verum Corpus managed in just 46 bars to delight everyone in St Mary’s. So much so that we forgot to applaud!
The two Mendelssohn works were welcome. The choir's rendition of his Prayer for Peace supported Robert Schuman's description of the work as ' a uniquely beautiful composition .. this little piece deserves to be known the world over.'
By Schubert's Mass in G, the choir was clearly fully recovered, in great voice and thoroughly enjoying the noises they were making. Their whispered Kyrie was soon joined by Elizabeth's remarkable soprano voice. Hayden's Te Deum was delivered with a fine, animated start - crystal clear and with strong purpose.
The lack of orchestra placed Finchley Choral society firmly centre stage. They worked hard and delivered all that the stand in conductor asked. But it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the presence of an orchestra, however small, would have added greatly to the enjoyment of the evening. Despite all this the choir really lifted itself to deliver a memorable series of performances demanded by this well-chosen programme.
For details of their concert on 24th March in Hampstead Garden Suburb, www.finchleychoral.org.uk
David Winskill. Ham and High.
Saturday 4th July 2009
Finchley choral Society
Handel – Dixit Dominus; Vivaldi- Gloria
What a beautiful place for beautiful music. The Chorus and the Florian Chamber Orchestra were arranged under the colourful stained glass of the west window as it let in the rays from the setting sun of a perfect summer’s day.
The two hundred or so souls that had struggled to park in the crowded Hampstead streets were rewarded with some marvellously performed heavenly music. Luckily, because of a relatively low turn out, we all got central aisle seats.
Handel’s Dixit Dominus was launched with great enthusiasm and joy by the choir. The second movement (Virgam virtutis) gave alto Tom Williams the opportunity to shine in a duet with the organ. This was followed by a magnificent, flowing soprano solo from the excellent Tara Bungard. By the end of the gymnastic Tu es sacerdos the whole choir was beaming with delight at the beauty they had just helped to create.
The final three movement were amazing. After the crochet working of the “conquassabit” the two soprano’s, with beautifully complimentary voices, gave the De Torrente. In the finale – the Gloria Patri - there was so much going on here that it was difficult to keep track of the ebbs and flows of the different parts of the choir – an amazing and uplifting experience.
After an lengthy interval (and educational trip round the graveyard) we reassembled for Vivaldi’s Gloria. Like his Four seasons, this must be one of the most quoted pieces in the classical music canon. Bits are always popping up in films, documentaries and TV ads. Hearing the piece in its entirety is a reminder of what a work of genius and beauty it is.
And, having it performed in a building whose construction started only thirty years after it was written (1715), added to the wonder of the piece.
The choir and orchestra gave the audience the wonderfully energetic start that they were anticipating – the sopranos were brilliant in the Handel and we were not disappointed as they offered a breathtaking Laudamus Te.
And so the rest of the performance continued – joyous, uplifting and beautiful All from a chorus and orchestra inspired by the beauty of the music and the sheer joy of performance.
David Winskill. Ham and High.