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Three into one does go for St Albans Abbey

PUBLISHED: 10:38 25 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

IN the short time he has been working in St Albans, John Gibbons, conductor of the city s Chamber Choir has proved himself to be a dynamic and exciting choral specialist. But to take on three choirs of varying ability and meld them into one massive and ex

IN the short time he has been working in St Albans, John Gibbons, conductor of the city's Chamber Choir has proved himself to be a dynamic and exciting choral specialist.

But to take on three choirs of varying ability and meld them into one massive and exiting body as he did at the biennial St Cecilia Festival in St Albans Abbey on Saturday was outstanding.

With the St Albans Symphony Orchestra, Harpenden's Hardynge Choir, the Radlett Choral Society and the St Albans Chamber Choir, more than 260 musicians and singers presented a tremendous performance of Verdi's truly spectacular Requiem.

And the four soloists specially chosen for their roles by John Gibbons added the extra boost which made the event truly memorable.

The requiem is packed with passion and drama and, in many ways, has all the hallmarks of Verdi's operas. To that end, it was not surprising that the soloists were all well known singers from the opera world.

In spite of suffering from a cold, Irish soprano Miriam Murphy completely thrilled the packed audience with one of the most intense and dramatic performances in the Requiem's soprano role that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

She was matched by Covent Garden Principal Mezzo Elizabeth Sikora and outstanding Australian lyric tenor Dominic Natoly. And bass Quentin Hayes who took over from James Oldfield after he pulled out through illness also gave a first class performance.

But it was really the night of the huge choir and orchestra. The Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum were a great thrill and the tremendous double fugue of the Sanctus was one of the choral high points of the evening.

Overall the backing from the St Albans Symphony Orchestra was first class with particularly fine performances by the trumpets in the Tuba Mirum and a stunning bassoon accompaniment to the Mezzo solo of Liber Scriptus in the Dies Irae

But probably the highest point in the evening was the very final section of the requiem which dies to almost silence.

This was a fine evening of dramatic music and a true demonstration of the very high standard the local music community can achieve.

JOHN MANNING

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