Stay-at-homes miss out on St Albans Abbey treat

PUBLISHED: 15:37 21 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

IT was clear from the number of empty seats in St Albans Abbey on Saturday that music by Benjamin Britten is not the most popular with audiences in the city. But those who decided to stay away from the St Albans Bach Choir s performance his St Nicholas Ca

IT was clear from the number of empty seats in St Albans Abbey on Saturday that music by Benjamin Britten is not the most popular with audiences in the city.

But those who decided to stay away from the St Albans Bach Choir's performance his St Nicholas Cantata missed an outstanding evening.

For me most of Britten's music is full of colour and life and St Nicholas is no exception.

For the performance the Bach Choir, under Andrew Lucas, was joined by choristers from the St Albans Cathedral Choir and the Abbey Girls Choir as well as Sinfonia Verdi, pianists Anna Tillbrook and John Reid, organist Parker Ramsay and tenor soloist Mark Dobell.

And the result was a fine performance of the standard one has come to expect from Andrew Lucas and the choir.

As usual the choir had few problems with the complexities of the piece and appeared to absolutely revel in Britten's arrangement of the Old Hundredth - All People That On Earth Do Dwell - together with the closing hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way.

The boy choristers who sang the part of Boy Nicholas gave fine performances and the members of the Girls Choir who formed an unseen choir gave a magnificent performance.

For Mark Dobell, a last minute stand-in for Jeremy Budd, the performance was a triumph. St Nicholas is, for the tenor soloist, a challenging work, not least because of the sheer amount of singing involved.

But the first part of the evening, a performance of Mozart's Davide Penitente, was far less successful and that was no fault of the choir, the orchestra or the fine soloists.

The piece is largely a reworking of the music from Mozart's Mass in C Minor and the result is quite disappointing with words which never seem to quite fit the music.

Although I had the feeling that the choir members were uneasy with the work, the performance from soloists Lucy Crowe and Deborah Miles-Johnson together with Mark Dobell did much to make up for the underlying problems.

But overall the standard of music provided by the huge gathering of artists was, as usual for a St Albans Bach Choir event, first class and Andrew Lucas's interpretation of both works, and in particularly the Britten, was impressive.

JOHN MANNING


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