A Choral Concert with a Difference

The following is the full version of a critique prepared by Vincent Smith of the June concert. An abridged version of this was published in the Sunderland Echo on June 29th 2010.

” Bishopwearmouth Choral Society is to be congratulated on the imaginative and innovative programme which was performed at the Minster on Saturday night. The combination of Choir and Brass always promises much and this was to be a thrilling evening enjoyed by all.

A Fanfare for Brass Quintet from the Ballet “La Peri “(Dukas) and “Die Bankelsangerlieder” (anon.) gave the programme an exhilarating start.  Anton Bruckner, the Austrian composer best known for his symphonies did nevertheless compose some of the most beautiful choral works for his beloved Church. The choir performed four of his ten motets.  They present many challenges, not least that of singing “a capella” and high passages for the sopranos, challenges which were successfully realised.  Two of the motets were accompanied by three trombones that being the only support throughout the works.    The Minster resonated to some glorious and thrilling choral sounds.  The full brass section of 9 players and two percussionists ended the first half with sparkling and tasteful performances of “The Prince of Denmark’s March” and the equally well known Suite of Six Dances by Susato.

The second half could not have begun with a more original and delightful opening. Two percussionists, Andy Booth and Mark Bolderson  performed  “Marche de Timbales” by Philidor. Pleasure was written over the faces of audience and choir alike as they experienced the aural and visual delights of Baroque military drumming.  Equally pleasurable was Andy’s performance of his own arrangement of “Little Polly’s Polka” by Keith Bartlett for Timpani to which Andy brought in the Brass to contribute a delicious “oom pah pah accompaniment at the end.

It was fitting that all forces came together for the final piece, “Te Deum” one of John Rutter’s most popular works.  In three movements the two outer sections fully exploit the technical virtuosity of players and singers alike and it was a credit to all that the balance was so well judged and that every syllable was clearly audible above the rich textures of the accompaniment.  The more contemplative and reflective central movement featured five soloists drawn from the choir and a highly decorative organ part performed with sensitivity by Eileen Bown.  The Minster was filled with glorious sounds and final tribute must go to the inspiring leadership and conducting of the Music Director, David Murray.  A receptive audience left the performers in no doubt that it had been an evening to remember.”

Vincent Smith