The annual Carol Concerts were performed on December 17th and 18th and the retiring collections for this year's chosen charities were as follows:
Monday 17th December. Somerset & Dorset Air Ambulance - £592.14
Tuesday 18th December. Water Survival Box - £538.79
17th November 2018. Vivaldi Gloria, Allegri Miserere, Astorga Stabat Mater, Pergolesi Magnificat, Corelli Trumpet Sonata in D
was a packed church in South Petherton for the South Somerset Choral
Society autumn concert: a programme of some well known Baroque works and
an almost unknown piece which turned out to be a real gem!
opening Magnificat, generally attributed to Pergolesi but now known to
have been composed by Francesco Durante, provided a rousing start to the
evening. The piece contains a pleasing mix of solos, duets and chorus
numbers, which showed the choir at their spirited best and also
introduced some of the young soloists who were to
prove such a treat. The duet sung by tenor (Kieran White) and bass
(Rupert Reid), for example, was beautifully phrased and their clarity of
tone and accuracy of pitching exemplified the standard of the solo
singing throughout the evening. The balance between choir and orchestra
was well judged and the raising of the gentlemen to the higher seats
behind the ladies possibly helped to project their lines effectively, despite their smaller numbers. The contrapuntal entries in the final chorus were confident and provided a fitting climax to the final Amen.
colourful life of the unfamiliar composer Baron d’Astorga was explored
in the excellent programme notes provided by conductor, Tim
Donaldson. A contemporary of Bach and Handel, his Stabat Mater was one
of the most frequently performed pieces of the 18th century before it
fell out of fashion. Its resurrection is long overdue and the sinuous
melodic lines and expressive
chromatic writing effectively convey the torment of Mary expressed in
the text. Such chromatic writing needs great clarity and accuracy of
pitching and it took the choir a little while to settle comfortably into
the opening movement. Their
singing soon became more confident with some well-projected contrapuntal
entries in the Eja Mater and more accurate intonation in this less
chromatic movement. Five of the nine movements
featured the soloists in various combinations, all of which were
delivered with superbly sensitive musicianship - it would be hard to
find fault with any of them. The final choral movement resists the usual
temptation to end with a loud Amen and the choir displayed good control
as it brought the work to its fitting peaceful conclusion with a warm,
well-balanced and well-controlled final cadence.
Two began with the Miserere by Allegri. The soloists sang from the side
chapel, giving an interesting spaciousness to the performance. Simple
sounding music often takes great skill to deliver and singing plainsong
with large numbers of singers is always risky. This was not the choir’s
finest few minutes (!) and there were intonation issues in what was
effectively unaccompanied singing, but they are to be congratulated for
tackling a work that clearly took them out of their comfort zone. The
piece is always worth hearing, the quartet of soloists was excellent and
the glorious ‘top Cs’ were impeccably delivered by soprano, Emilia
purely instrumental Sonata for trumpet and strings by Corelli ,was
skilfully played by David Bertie. Not the most exciting of pieces, this
was a sequence of 5 short movements, but it nevertheless left one wanting to hear more of his seemingly effortless technique and bright Baroque sound.
well-known Gloria provided an effective conclusion to this varied
programme. The choir relaxed into this more familiar territory and
really sang well throughout.Their
energetic singing in the opening movement, was followed by
well-sustained chromatic lines in the Et in Terra Pax. The familiar
Laudamus Te was superbly sung by sopranos Emilia Morton and Ruth Provost
and the latter provided perhaps the most serene moments of the evening
in the Dominus Deus, complemented by a beautiful oboe solo (Laura Manning). The alto soloist (Bethany Horak-Hallett) was particularly impressive in this piece, her rich tone, beautiful phrasing and an effortless sounding technique allowing one to simply sit backand enjoy the music.
was great variety within this programme of Baroque music. Familiar
music is often more difficult to perform than the listener might imagine
and the choir is to be congratulated for their performance overall.
There was some lovely individual playing from the orchestra, which was
always supportive of the singers, and the soloists were a real treat.
The audience quite rightly rewarded all performers with generous and prolonged applause.
Congratulations to all concerned.
18th March 2018 Rutter, Vaughan Williams, Dvorak and Fauré
"Challenges Well Met"
was gratifying to see a full house for this concert by the South Somerset
Choral Society in St. Mary’s, Chard – the threat of more wintry weather was no
deterrent. The programme picked by
musical director Tim Donaldson was a demanding one, but he and SSCS rose to the
occasion, supported by two very fine soloists.
A small but skilful orchestra was led by Jane Margeson.
we heard Vaughan Williams’ setting of poetry by George Herbert – the ‘Five
Mystical Songs’ of 1911. This gave
baritone soloist Jake Muffett his chance to establish his credentials, and he
did so straight away. His phrasing was
elegant and assured and his diction exemplary – he did take a few minutes to even
out his sound quality across the lower and upper registers, but his singing was
always expressive. I was particularly
struck by the way he contrasted “Love” (God) and “Guest” (Mankind) in the third
song – his control of the timbres was lovely, as was his handling of dynamic
contrasts in the fourth.
contribution by the chorus in these songs was a little on the muted side. I don’t know enough about the acoustics of
St. Mary’s, but their sound was a little less than I would have expected from
such a large ensemble. At the start they
dragged very slightly behind Tim’s beat, but soon they were in their
stride. The ensemble sound at the end of
the second song (“Love got me Flowers”) was very impressive. The last song in the set (“Let All the
World”) is chorus alone and the upper voices rang out splendidly. Overall I felt the choir could have put a bit
more energy into the piece but the result was a fitting conclusion.
Fauré Pavane is a well known piece, and has been arranged and
orchestrated in a huge number of ways over the years. Perhaps one of its less well known versions
is the one with a choral element, with a sad text on the romantic helplessness
of man. A pavane is a courtly dance –
Tim took it quite slowly, but perhaps appropriately for this arrangement. The choir’s sound was lovely, with a wistful
tone and very good ensemble in the opening slow section. They slightly lost cohesion in the more
declamatory phrases, but overall it was for me a good introduction to a less
familiar version of a well-known work.
bring us up to the interval we heard the setting of the ‘Te Deum’ by Dvořák. Like so much of his
music it is scored for quite large ensembles and the orchestra did a great job,
sounding like a group twice their size!
Special congratulations to the percussion section for their huge and
work introduced us to the second soloist, soprano Alison Ponsford-Hill. In the ‘Sanctus’ we heard absolutely spot-on
intonation, rising beautifully above the orchestra – just the right kind of
sound for the music. Until she had
warmed up I felt that we could have done with a little more vocal colour and
variety, but I truly enjoyed what she did here and later. The chorus was in good form and they blended
well with the rustic woodwinds. Jake
came back in the ‘Tu Rex Gloria’ and was declamatory and exciting, sounding
really thrilled by the whole thing. The
chorus contribution was slightly less forthright, but this was not out of
keeping with the context. In the
‘Aeterna fac’ each section proclaimed the words with great feeling over the
very busy strings to good effect – the very tricky timing of the ‘Rege Eos’
entries was well done.
‘Dignare Domine’ soared out beautifully over the texture – I would have
preferred a little more vibrato but the certainty of her pitching removed any
risk of it sounding harsh. The duet
between her and Jake (‘Benedicamus’) was beautifully balanced despite the
voices being of such differing timbres.
The concluding ‘Alleluia’ brought all the forces into play, Alison
giving it her all, the chorus singing their hearts out and the orchestra going
berserk – lovely!
Rutter is a national treasure, and his output covers a huge range of styles,
from simple carols to very large choral and orchestral works. His 1990 setting of the ‘Magnificat’ brought
the evening to a close and a very successful one it was.
opening is a real foot-tapper – religious music can be fun you know! I have heard it taken a little faster than
Tim’s tempo, but it still sounded fine.
Again, the chorus lagged slightly behind the beat at the start, but were
soon back on track. The notoriously
difficult ‘Omnes generationes’ entry did cause a bit of a problem, but overall
this started well. I loved the second
movement ‘Of A Rose’ – the ladies started it off beautifully and the interplay
between the various sections of the choir was well controlled, the ensemble maintained
throughout, in this and the following number.
performance of the ‘Et Misericordia’ was lovely – she came through the texture
clearly without sounding too dominant and the choir were at their best. Later too, in the ‘Esurientes’ she gave a
really lovely performance, the timbre of her voice being just right for this
music. In this section the choral
contribution was excellent, as was the particularly fine woodwind playing.
the finale the choir did not start off as powerfully and confidently as it
might have done, but the subsequent build up to the end went very well and we
had a properly satisfying climax to the work and to the whole evening. This was a very enjoyable night – Tim and his
forces are to be congratulated on tackling such a mixed programme and doing it
well. I would only say to the chorus –
you can make a great sound, do it with more confidence!
Harold W. Mead