BOTLEY CHORAL SOCIETY CHRISTMAS CONCERT
All Saints’ Church Botley was filled to capacity on the evening of 16th December for the annual Christmas concert by Botley Choral Society. Unfortunately, David Burgess the Musical Director was unwell and not able to conduct the concert, but Mark Dancer ably stood in, with his task being made less onerous by the many weeks of practice which the choir had undertaken.
The first half of the concert comprised seven carols which were largely unknown to the audience, originating from the 14th Century to a recent composition. The older carols had been arranged by modern composers such as John Gardner, William Walton, David Willcocks and John Rutter.
The carols offered a variety of style and rhythm, ranging from “When Christ was born of Mary free”, (15th Century), beautifully sung in well blended rich harmony a capella to Bob Chilcott’s “Where riches is everlastingly”, set to a rumba and which ended with great panache. The backing was provided by two pianists and a group of six percussionists, all of whom played with great enthusiasm, ensuring that most of the carols were sung in a lively manner, and it is a tribute to the choir members that their articulation of the words kept pace with the rapid tunes. It is possible that some of the audience expected more well- known carols to be performed, but the unusual choice made was enjoyed, and received with loud applause.
The main work was “Carmina Burana” a cantata by Carl Orff which was first performed in 1937 and which reflects much of the musical style of that time. For the texts Orff took 24 verses from a collection of 13th Century poems discovered in the early 19th Century near Munich, his native city. They were written by various itinerant scholars in low Latin, old French and early German, and mingle Christian piety and pagan hedonism, amounting to an uninhibited celebration of the pleasures of life, particularly love. Bed and bawdiness feature strongly in them, together with a love of strong drink. The work is divided into three parts, entitled “Spring”, “In the Tavern” and “Love” (which more accurately should be “Lust”). To spare the blushes of those of a sensitive nature, the English translation in the programme used language in more genteel terms. The underlying theme of the cantata is the turning of the wheel of fortune, with the first segment being entitled “O Fortuna” and which is repeated as the last segment.
Originally, the work was scored for choir and orchestra, but was transcribed in 1956, with Orff’s blessing, for two pianos and percussion, resulting in the instrumental parts being much more complex than the choral parts. There are complicated rhythms and frequent changes of metre, and at times the sheer speed of the numbers creates a challenge to articulate unfamiliar words. Some pieces require to be sung with great verve, and the choir magnificently showed all of the attributes needed to meet the challenge.
The soloists, Sarah Rowley (soprano), Adrian Green (tenor) and Malachy Frame (baritone) sang from the pulpit, which ensured that their voices projected well to all parts of the church. They all sang beautifully, but special mention must be made of Adrian, as in most performances of the cantata the tenor sings two sections in falsetto, but it was impossible to tell when he made the transition to falsetto from bel canto.
The pianos and percussion were very spirited, and at times overwhelmed the choir, but overall the exhuberance of both the choir and instrumentalists blended well to create an uplifting occasion, which was received with acclaim by an appreciative audience.
"Mendelssohn : St. Paul
The Winchester and County Music Festival began life in 1921 with the aim of providing an opportunity for smaller choirs to perform more demanding works which they would be unable to undertake with their own resources. For 2017 singers from Botley, Overton, Twyford and Winchester provided a splendidly large choir to give a powerful performance in Winchester Cathedral of Mendelssohn’s rarely heard oratorio St. Paul. Written in 1836 and first performed in that year in Dusseldorf and Liverpool and in Birmingham in 1837, the work tells the story of Paul’s persecution of the Christians, his conversion, baptism and ordination, as told in the Acts of the Apostles.
Saturday’s performance provided a successful opportunity to admire Mendelssohn’s elegance, romantic lyricism and superb control of his forces. The chorus responded well to the dramatic numbers as well as the more reflective ones, tackling the more complex contrapuntal music well, relaxing in the chorale numbers which reflect on the story. There was some impressive four part singing by the women’s chorus, and the gentlemen were suitably dramatic when needed. Three soloists caught the lyrical style of their arias well, tenor Adrian Green and bass Edmund Saddington being particularly effecting in their duet ‘For so hath the Lord’. Soprano Helen Bailey also caught the reflective, flowing melodies of her arias, even if she seemed a little less secure in some of the recitatives. The Festival Orchestra was led by Elizabeth Flower and provided a secure and at times powerful accompaniment, underpinned by the might of the cathedral’s grand organ. There was some lovely clarinet playing in ‘O Thou, the true and only light’ and a solo cello enchanted us in ‘Be Thou faithful.’
The whole performance was directed with clarity and security by Graham Kidd, and even if Mendelssohn’s later oratorio Elijah of 1846 is the better known and more memorable work, Saturday’s performance of St. Paul was most pleasing and a welcome opportunity to hear a work which is not performed very often these days.
Botley Choral Society present concerts of wonderful music by Vivaldi and Pergolesi this weekend:
Saturday 1st April at St Nicholas Church, Wickham
Sunday 2nd April at All Saints Church, Botley
Both performances start at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) and free for under 16s. These can be purchased by phoning 07941 884419 or online by following the Concerts link above.
The Vivaldi works are the Magnificat and Beatus Vir - these are for double choir and double orchestra. The Pergolesi is his Stabat Mater, traditionally sung just by two soloists, but we are performing it in a version for soloists and choir. We are fortunate to have two brilliant soloists - Jane Sherriff (Soprano) and Marie-Anne Hall (Contralto) and a group of 8 string players - so it's not to be missed!
Botley Choral Society is an amateur choir that meets once a week in in the village of Botley, Hampshire, in the South of England. The choir perform at least two public concerts a year and take part in the annual Winchester and County Music Festival. Please browse this site to find out more - and come along to the next concert.
Greyladies Arts Foundation is pleased to present a Come and Sing "Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo" by Flanders and Horowitz. Led by David Burgess and accompanied by a small band.
When: Sat 4th February
Time: 3.30 to register and collect music, 3.45 start rehearsal, 7.00 performance
Where: St Leonard's Church, Bursledon SO31 8AB
Cost: £12 singers (to include hire of music and cups of tea - please bring a snack), £5 audience (to include wine and soft drinks)
Book now: 02380 404649 or on the door