Exciting times for St Albans Chamber Choir

CONDUCTOR John Gibbons deserves a huge vote of thanks for arranging one of the most exciting concerts to be staged in St Albans for some time. The final concert in the St Albans Chamber Choir s 50th anniversary season was packed with musical treats not ju

CONDUCTOR John Gibbons deserves a huge vote of thanks for arranging one of the most exciting concerts to be staged in St Albans for some time.

The final concert in the St Albans Chamber Choir's 50th anniversary season was packed with musical treats not just from the choir, but also from the guest artists who were taking part at St Peter's Church in St Albans on Saturday.

Topping the bill was internationally-renowned composer Karl Jenkins and his wife Carol Barratt who accompanied the choir in a performance of Jenkins' own work A Parliament of Owls.

But also adding to the riches of the evening were world-class marimba player Daniella Ganeva and St Albans saxophone player David Wigram.


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Daniella joined the choir in their first work of the evening, Oratio, by the little-known Latvian composer Rihards Dubra. This is probably one of the most demanding and challenging pieces ever sung by the Chamber Choir but the result was outstanding, particularly in the way the voices blended with the marimba.

Hard on its heels came the first of two solo spots by David Wigram in which he played three of the four movements from Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla's fast moving Histoire du Tango, accompanied by John Gibbons at the piano.

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David's performance of these delightful jazzy and rhythmic pieces just added to the excitement of the evening.

Edward Elgar's delightful song There Is Sweet Music acted as a wonderful foil to the fast-moving Argentinean rhythm and once more demonstrated the choir's ability to handle difficult works.

Sweet Suffolk Owl by the 17th century composer Thomas Vautor acted as a fine introduction to Karl Jenkins A Parliament of Owls.

Described as a "celebration of collective nouns", the work is at once witty and entertaining but also demanding not only for the choir but also for the accompanists - the piano duettists, saxophone and percussion.

But the huge applause of the audience at the end of the of the work should have been enough to prove to all those taking part that the performance was hugely entertaining.

In complete contrast, the second half began with Les Chansons des Roses, five outstandingly beautiful songs by the contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen.

Daniella Ganeva's solo spot, a performance of Visio Remissionis, a piece specially written for her by Rihards Dubra, proved to be yet another high point of the evening. Daniella showed tremendous mastery of her instrument, demonstrating a vast range of tonal effects in her completely riveting performance.

The madrigals, All Creatures Now Are Merry-Minded by John Bennet and Orlando Gibbons' The Silver Swan calmed down the proceedings before David Wigram's performance of the third of Piazzolla's pieces and the final work of the evening, Bob Chilcott's amusing Weather Report.

This was without doubt a great evening of outstanding - and often rare - music sung by a fine choir and performed by outstanding musicians. John Gibbons and all those associated with the evening deserve heartfelt thanks from all those fortunate enough to be present at the concert.

JOHN MANNING

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