Simon lifts St Albans Chamber Choir above the norm

PUBLISHED: 11:25 14 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

FROM the very first notes of Saturday s concert by Carillon, the St Alban Chamber Choir, it was clear that the evening was going to be something better than the norm. Carillon has long had a reputation for fine performances but former BBC Singers principa

FROM the very first notes of Saturday's concert by Carillon, the St Alban Chamber Choir, it was clear that the evening was going to be something better than the norm.

Carillon has long had a reputation for fine performances but former BBC Singers principal conductor Simon Joly brought a new dimension to the evening.

There was a new clarity and freshness about the choir which shone through in the more challenging works of the evening, particularly in the quieter moments and overall in the handling of the dynamics of the works which made up the programme.

After a joyful opening with Purcell's anthem I Was Glad and the delightfully sombre Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei the choir came to its first big challenge of the night, Philip Moore's setting of three prayers by the German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed by the Gestapo in 1945.

Simon Joly's treatment of the moving works was both sensitive and stunning. His exquisite handling of the dynamics and phrasing gripped the audience. Particularly moving were the fine solos by alto Elva Ainsworth, tenor Robert Hawkes, soprano Julia Blinko and bass Alan Herbert.

The second part of the concert opened with an equally fine performance of Gerald Finzi's setting of seven Poems of Robert Bridges which was followed by two fine piano solos by Kevin Vockerodt who played John Ireland's April and Bergomask.

But it was Symphony of Voices by the former Master of the Queen's Music Malcolm Williamson that was probably the most challenging for both choir and audience.

I must admit that the work is not my style of music but Carillon's performance of the unaccompanied work was of such a high standard that it made tremendous listening.

The opening movement is an invocation sung as an alto solo. Packed with tricky phrasing and difficult notation the movement was excellently performed by Christine Edmundson. The evening was rounded off Herbert Howells' tremendous anthem for choir and organ Like as the Heart.

It was the fourth time that Simon Joly had worked with Carillon. One can only hope there is a fifth.

JOHN MANNING


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