Review of Spring Concert

AN EVENING OF SACRED MUSIC – BOTLEY CHORAL SOCIETY
Botley Choral Society paid a much anticipated return visit to St. Nicholas’ Church on March 17th, but sadly were upstaged by an unwelcome guest, namely the “Beast from the East”. As a result the attendance was reduced to just over fifty hardy souls whose reward for venturing forth in adverse weather was an uplifting performance of nine European sacred anthems spanning a number of centuries, followed by two works written by Henry Purcell in the seventeenth Century.
The pieces in the first half of the programme varied from its opening “Lord Jesu Christ, my life and light” (J.S.Bach) which is commenced by an instrumental prelude set at a walking pace, with the singers taking up the melody to a similar tempo, to the closing piece “Beatus vir” (Monteverdi) which was sung with joyful gusto, finishing almost at a frenzy.
Purcell’s compositions are best described as “lively”, and held the attention of the audience with their variety, particularly “Come ye Sons of Art” which is divided into an overture and seven sections which include solos as well as significant parts for the choir.
It may be argued that the nave of St Nicholas’ Church is a little narrow to accommodate a choir of the size of B.C.S. but the more intimate setting enhanced the sound quality, and blended the voices together. Those who are familiar with the standards set by the choir members will be aware of the precision with which they make their entrances, sing their parts with clear diction and harmony and finish each piece in unison. On this occasion, they exceeded their own high standards and reached new heights of excellence. All of this is not just a reflection of the dedication and hours of practice on the part of choir members, but also of the expertise and leadership of David Burgess, who, again, not only chose a most enthralling selection of music, but guided the choir to give of its best.
The choir was assisted by a group of stringed and wind instrumentalists, who provided a fitting accompaniment to the singing, and two of whom played a moving oboe duet of Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”. The five solo vocalists also displayed their virtuosity with exquisite performances to enhance the overall atmosphere of the evening.
For those who were privileged to attend, it was a most rewarding evening, and it was a great shame that more were not able to be present to show appreciation to a renowned local institution performing at its peak. In the event, we in Wickham should consider ourselves fortunate, as the performance due to take place the following evening at Botley was cancelled as the weather had worsened. It is understood that B.C.S. will return to perform at the 2020 celebration at St. Nicholas, but they would be welcome at any time!