December Concert Review by Keith Nixon

The following is a review by Keith Nixon of the concert held on the 1st December 2012, previously submitted to the Sunderland Echo and reproduced here with his kind permission.

The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s traditional December concert treated the audience to a pre-Christmas fare of musical delights but included a turkey which was not to everyone’s taste.

Conductor David Murray chose an all-Vaughan Williams programme for thefirst half: The Lark Ascending and An Oxford Elegy. It was a curious choice as the summery music and words sat uncomfortably with an audience wrapped up against the freezing weather. Martin Hughes excelled in the violin solo part of The Lark, a mini-concerto which leaves the soloist highly exposed (literally) at the end.

An Oxford Elegy, set to poems by Matthew Arnold about an academic wishing to lead the life of a gipsy, is very rarely performed – and deservedly so. Andrew Scott narrated it well with wonderful expression, which helped to bring the piece to some sort of life but the choir did not seem comfortable with Vaughan Williams’ pseudo-ethereal wordless mutterings and Arnold’s dull text.

The second half of the concert, however, showed the choir in its true colours. They seemed delighted to trade in their spluttering V W and they found the perfect vehicle in Bob Chilcott’s high-octane arrangement of carols. The Coventry Carol was beautifully sung while the Sussex Carol was full of energy and fun.

Soprano Clare Tunney’s contribution to the concert delighted the audience. Her flawlessly executed phrasing in The Little Road to Bethlehem had everyone spellbound. Clare clearly has a very bright future ahead of her and it was a pity that her performance here was restricted to only three carols.

The concert finished with Chilcott’s take on The Twelve Days of Christmas, in which the ‘five gold rings’ refrain appears in an array of guises. The choir revelled in its humour and sent the audience home in high spirits.

Keith Nixon