St Albans Chamber Choir’s welcome return attracts a considerable audience

Midori Komachi (violin), John Gibbons (conductor) and Susie Arbeid (piano) in St Saviour’s Church

Midori Komachi (violin), John Gibbons (conductor) and Susie Arbeid (piano) at the end of the St Albans Chamber Choir’s concert on November 13 in St Saviour’s Church - Credit: Mark Arbeid

Audience member Alan Knott reviews St Albans Chamber Choir's concert The Lark Ascending in St Saviour's Church on Saturday, November 13.

For the last two years members of the St Albans Chamber Choir have been keeping their voices in trim, practising separately and together, in ways consistent with Covid guidance and legal requirements.

That these efforts have succeeded was demonstrated in this performance. 

The choir’s musical director, John Gibbons, presented a varied programme which centred around the solo violinist, Midori Komachi, whose rapport with the choir was exceptional; it seemed as if they had been playing together for years.

She excelled in The Lark Ascending, in which the well-known orchestral piece by Vaughan Williams had been arranged for choir and solo violin by Paul Drayton.

This worked surprisingly well in its own right, given the familiarity with the original version.

It demonstrated how the human voice, while not reproducing orchestral sounds, is versatile enough to have a similar effect.

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Similar versatility was required of the choir in Cecilia McDowall’s Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo, for which they were joined by Midori Komachi and Susie Arbeid (piano).

This work tells the true story of a young wheelchair-bound refugee. It consists of five contrasting sections, each representing a stage of her journey.

As the programme note says, “a wealth of musical effects is employed to capture the narrative; including chorales, rhythmic spoken sections, body percussion and a solo violin part infused with Middle Eastern flavours.”

The result was a superb piece of music, superbly performed.

As if to announce their return, the choir had begun the concert with a spirited if more conventional unaccompanied performance of Rheinberger’s Mass in E flat.

This was followed by Ferdinand the Bull, a piece by Alan Ridout for violin (Midori Komachi) and narrator (Susie Arbeid), based on a children’s book. This required great concentration, but the soloists made it look easier than it was. 

The concert was applauded by a considerable audience, including a number of families with children, who had been encouraged by the variety in the programme and the 2pm start

It was good to see them and others new to the choir’s concerts, as well as old friends.

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