Keswick Choral Society Spring Concert
Review by Bob Fowler reproduced courtesy of The Keswick Reminder, 29th April, 2016
The week of KCS Spring Concert was one full of signs and wonders and anniversaries. The first cuckoo was heard in Newlands and the new lambs gambolled happily. There were notable anniversaries – the Queen’s Birthday and Shakespeare’s (or was it his demise?). Prince, singer and song writer, died unexpectedly before his time. The President of America slipped over to wish Her Majesty ‘Happy Birthday!’ Despite Feste’s ‘For the rain it raineth every day’ (Twelfth Night), the majority of Keswickians were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel after the near biblical floods.
Miraculously perhaps the Spring Concert captured the essence of the spirit of the time. Beethoven’s Mass in C Major closes with the Agnus Dei and the final line, dona nobis pacem – give us peace – matched the spirit of the moment. The programme notes draw attention to the ‘elegant balance, lovely melodies’ of the Beethoven. The Choir were at one with the spirit of this Mass, consummately conducted by their Director, Ian Hare, and interspersed with soaring and sensitive solos from the visiting professionals, Charlotte Jackson, Hollie-Anne Bangham, Robert Thompson and Jonathan Millican.
Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer took us to new heights. The audience (congregation??) were stilled at the pathos and the prayer’s question, ‘Where shall I fly?… I have no guide.’ The soloist’s cries soared and made us quiver with emotion. We all took off with the supplicant’s solution- ‘O for the wings of a dove! Far away would I rove. In the wilderness build me a nest’. Meanwhile the choir gently lent sensitive support and meaning to the supplicant’s dilemma. An unforgettable experience.
Britten’s Jubilate commanded us to be joyful ‘with its lively and spirited organ accompaniment and its simple and direct vocal phrases it positively bubbles’ . And so it did. Adrian Self at the organ and the confident and enthusiastic choir really ‘got it’. Joy indeed.
There now followed a brilliantly appropriate change of emphasis, knees bowed to the bard with a revelatory performance of a selection of Will’s Songs and Sonnets. As the programme recounts, George Shearing was born in 1919 and was blind from birth. ‘He began picking out melodies on a piano at the age of three and was soon able to play by ear. Shakespeare’s Songs and Sonnets was commissioned by the Mostly Madrigal Singers, Illinois. …The songs cannot fail to delight singers and listeners alike.’ And so it was in St John’s Church on 23 April. Perfectly accompanied by pianist, Cilla Grant, and double bass player Ian Coburn, the choir sang and the audience (certainly no longer ‘congregation’) were indeed delighted and excited by the near jazz performances of Live with me, and be my love; When daffodils begin to peer; It was a lover and his lass; Cuckoo! Cuckoo, cuckoo!; Who is Silvia?; Fie on sinful fantasy; and, When I was and a little tiny boy – closing with the lyrical tones and promise to the audience:
A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain
But that’s all one, our play is done
And we’ll try to please you every day.
Well, pleased we all were, everyone. But the play was not quite done. Following a quick rehearsal of the audience we were all led by Ian Hare and Hollie-Anne in a rousing and patriotic chorus of Rule Britannia. Yes, everyone had enjoyed it all. Ian Hare is to be congratulated and thanked, along with his choir and accompanists, for a rich, professional, innovative, daring programme. With the ‘never, never’ of Rule Brittania still echoing, one or two of the audience were overheard mischievously(?) confiding as they left the Church, ‘Well, that puts paid to Brexit!’(?)