Review – 23rd March 2019 Concert: Festival of Choral Music

After the considerable successes of Verdi’s Requiem and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, how were Isle of Wight Cantata Choir going to top that?
Their Concert at All Saints’ Church, Ryde on Saturday 23rd March was a real feast of choral classics. Lots to enjoy and a real triumph of performance of some ‘crowd-pleasers’.

The programme started with a beautiful rendition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs for Baritone and Choir, ably accompanied by Richard Wilkinson on the pianoforte. The first movement, Rise Heart set the tone for the evening ahead. There was some very sensitive singing from Alistair Nye with excellent range of dynamics, underpinned by choral accompaniment. One of my favourite movements ‘The Call’ was delivered as if one could hear a pin drop in church. The choir came to the fore in the final movement with a rousing chorus of Let All the World in Every Corner Sing.
We enjoyed the complex Hubert Parry work, Blest Pair of Sirens. Sometimes in 8 parts with plenty of polyphony, it can be a challenge for many choirs. Rachel ably navigated Cantata through the complex strands of musical themes and counter themes. The organ part certainly made us sit up and take notice.

After the interval, a true crowd-pleaser in Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Although very familiar to many, it was delivered with a freshness and true commitment to the music and lyrics. A very rousing start to the second half.

There were two excerpts from Haydn’s Creation next interspersed with Mons Leidvin Takle’s The Power of Life Organ Solo. A stunningly exciting work very well delivered by Andrew Cooper.

Achieved is the Glorious Work and The Heavens are Telling were sung with a good dynamic range from the choir with plenty of attack, where required. Good diction and commitment to the homophony.

We were then treated to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus sung completely from memory. What a difference it was to be able to see the choir’s faces and notice the true enjoyment of the achievement when the final chord was delivered! The soaring phrases of the sopranos were stratospheric. Going higher even when it didn’t seem possible to do so! Each part matched one another for dynamics and commitment to the text. Good leads from everyone. Stunning!

A further more reflective organ solo from Mons Leidvin Takle was enjoyed – Flute of Grace

..and then, one of my personal favourites to round off this excellent concert: Parry’s I Was Glad. Diction was marvellous and the overall sound of the choir blended really well and matched the organ underpinning the choral parts. The quieter section was sung sensitively before the climb to the top B flats from the sopranos finished off the work.

All sections of the choir sang with great conviction and commitment. It was clear to all who attended how much Cantata enjoyed the programme chosen by Rachel Tweddle and what an excellent venue for the Choir (who usually perform at Medina’s Theatre).

Cantata’s next concert is on 6th October 2019 and will be Four Coronation Anthems by Handel and Haydn’s Mass in the Time of War at Medina Theatre at 7:30pm.

H.B.