Chamber choir Carillon 'will be sorely missed' in St Albans

Carillon Chamber Choir waves goodbye to the St Albans music scene.

Carillon Chamber Choir waves goodbye to the St Albans music scene. - Credit: Carillon Chamber Choir

John Manning reviews Carillon's farewell concert in St Albans.

After more than three decades of providing audiences with fine choral music, Carillon, the St Albans-based chamber choir, went out with a bang at its final concert on Saturday.

The decision to disband was taken in November 2019 and the final concert was due to have taken place in May last year, but of course, Covid restrictions prevented this.

But after the delay, the members were joined by the Lawes Chamber Players and soloists, soprano Bethany Partridge, mezzo Amy Lydon, tenor Edward Ross and bass-baritone Lawrence Williams, all members of the outstanding group of Amici Voices, the Harpenden-based group of young professional singers, for their farewell.

And the result was an outstanding evening with everyone providing fine performances.

As with so many previous concerts, Carillon presented a challenging programme starting with Vivaldi's much-loved Gloria in D major and ending with J S Bach’s equally loved Magnificat in D major. 

And the Magnificat was indeed magnificent.

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The opening chorus was enough to prove that the long break had done nothing to diminish the quality of Carillon’s singing ability, and indeed the outstanding voices of Bethany Partridge and Amy Lyndon together with the excellent musicianship of the Lawes Chamber Players added greatly to the overall enjoyment of the work.

It was followed by a series of a capella works by Byrd, Schűtz and Charles Villiers Stanford, all of which were well sung. 

The choir opened the second half of the evening with Im Advent from Mendelssohn’s Sechs Sprűche followed by Hubert Parry’s emotional six-part setting of the poem There is an old Belief, a work in which the choir truly excelled.

And then, of course, came Bach’s, a work which, in parts, is extremely challenging for the choir. But, as we have come to expect, it was handled with great competence.

Once more the soloists and orchestra added greatly to the pleasure of the performance, particularly with the addition of tenor Edward Ross and bass-baritone Laurence Williams.

Oboist Geoff Coates was particularly noteworthy in both this and the Vivaldi.

Although Carillon has never had a permanent conductor, David Ireson who directed Saturday’s final performance has been responsible for leading the choir in some of its more memorable performances, including an outstanding performance of Rachmaninov’s Vespers in 2010.

His leadership often appeared to bring something extra out of the choir and it certainly did on Saturday.

They will all be sorely missed.