Simplicity of Genius

The following review of the 10th March concert was prepared by Vincent Smith for inclusion in the Sunderland Echo but is reproduced here with his kind permission.

“Concerts presented by Bishopwearmouth Choral Society are looked forward to with keen anticipation by performers and audience. Saturday evening at the Minster was no exception. Faure was the featured composer his Requiem being the main work.  The first half of the concert includedworks that are miniature gems.  A convincing performance of Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” began the programme to be followed by “Calme des Nuits” (Saint Saens) in which the choir successfully reflected the atmosphere suggested by the title.  An unfamiliar work can also be a pleasant surprise and the inclusion of “Dirait-On” by the American composer Morten Laurindsen, one of whose influences was Faure, fitted nicely into the programme.

Faure songs require a particular sensitivity to text and musical line and textures and the guest soloist for the evening, the young but experienced Baritone, Alexander Robin Baker and his accompanist Eileen Bown were ideal performers in “L’horizon Chimerique” a miniature cycle of four songs and the last ones to be written by Faure.  David Murray the Society’s Music Director joined Eileen Bown at the piano to charm the audience with three movements from Faure’s “Dolly Suite.” The first half concluded with “Cantique de Jean Racine.” If the epithet “Simplicity of Genius” applies to any work it is this delightful piece which prepares one for the refined lyrical warmth of the Requiem.

Serenity and contemplation pervade the atmosphere of the “Requiem” rather than the dramatics of a Berlioz or Verdi. There are climaxes however, one in “Hosanna” being one of the loveliest moments in music.  It is the positive policy of the Choral Society to encourage young people to get involved and a group of junior members, who would have thoroughly enjoyed singing in the opening item, sang the “Pie Jesu” achieving the difficult task of blending as one. A large well balanced choir, guest soloist and orchestra under the direction of David Murray are to be congratulated for an imaginative well focused programme.”

Vincent Smith