Concert review: Harpenden Choral Society's 'impressive evening of music making'

John Andrews, Harpenden Choral Society's Musical Director

John Andrews, Harpenden Choral Society's Musical Director - Credit: Harpenden Choral Society

Rowen G Dillmer reviews Harpenden Choral Society's Rossini and Mendelssohn concert at High Street Methodist Church, Harpenden on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

The Harpenden Choral Society

Harpenden Choral Society - Credit: Harpenden Choral Society

Those who attended Saturday evening’s delightful concert given by Harpenden Choral Society in the High Street Methodist Church had the opportunity to hear two lesser known works: Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion and Rossini’s Stabat Mater. 

Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion hails from the same period as Elijah. Musical critics tend to either love or hate the work! Nevertheless, it is most worthy of an occasional airing.

The piece placed high demands on the four soloists: Jeni Bern (soprano), Olivia Ray (mezzo), Thomas Raskin (tenor) and Felix Kemp (baritone).

Their voices blended well, particularly in the quartet work, and the audience was treated to some magical lyrical singing and great interaction with the choir.

There was good attention to dynamics resulting in a pleasing climax in the 7th movement and its transition into the melodic Ecce Panis.

Particularly enjoyable was the simple but effective unison chorale treatment over an imaginatively registered organ accompaniment in Docti Sacris. Jeni Bern’s commendable treatment of Caro Cibus was also beautifully controlled.

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Rossini’s Stabat Mater is understandably very operatic in style and its melodic gaiety and complimentary accompaniment seem at odds with the gravity of the text. 

Again, the soloists take much of the ‘meat’ of the work and in this performance gave a dramatic account of Rossini’s score.

There were some beautiful lyrical moments from the choir and the final fugue scurried along at a breathless but generally controlled pace. Diction and balance not ideal in places, but great attention to detail rewarded the choir a performance of which to be proud.

The event was conducted by John Andrews and the challenging adaptation of the orchestral accompaniment was brilliantly executed by organist George Castle.

His well chosen and carefully managed registrations added colour and musicality to the performance –  the icing on the cake of an impressive evening of music making. Well done HCS!