J S Bach: St John Passion
Saturday, 5 May 2018, St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne
Kington Choral Society (KCS) were blessed with a gloriously sunny evening for their Spring Concert in St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne, which added to the sense of occasion that characterised their performance of J S Bach’s St John Passion, sung in German and conducted by Robert Evans.
The choir was joined by the period instruments of Marches Baroque orchestra and an extremely distinguished line-up of guest soloists, all members of the acclaimed professional choir The Sixteen.
Outstanding among them was Jeremy Budd, singing the role of the Evangelist, which he did with tremendous authority and commitment. Timothy Jones brought eloquent pathos to the role of Christ, and the additional arias were skilfully performed by Julie Cooper (soprano), Kim Porter (alto), George Pooley (tenor) and Ben Davies (bass).
Highlights included the latter’s tender arioso ‘Betrachte, meine Seel’ / ‘Consider, my soul’ and Julie Cooper’s limpid final aria ‘Zerfliesse, mean Herze’ / ‘Dissolve, my heart, in floods of tears’, with its exquisite flute (Jonathan Morgan), oboe (Mark Baigent) and cello (David Hatcher) accompaniment. The contribution of continuo players Hilary Norris (organ) and Michael Neville (harpsichord) should also be acknowledged.
KCS is an unauditioned choir and it is no mean feat for them to undertake the demands of singing this great work, but they rose to the challenge magnificently. Their hard work over the rehearsal period was apparent, as was the inspirational effect of working with such experienced soloists and instrumentalists. The reflective chorales were nicely varied in mood and the difficult choruses were delivered with a great sense of drama. Entries in the fugal sections were generally confident, with some particularly strong tenor leads. It was noteworthy that the choir’s tuning improved in the second half rather than flagging as one might have expected, and they successfully negotiated most of the tricky rhythmic hurdles.
This was Robert Evans’s fourth concert as music director of KCS and he is to be congratulated for giving the choir this opportunity. The concert was deservedly sold out and the audience rightly appreciative of a very special performance.
Britten, Ceremony of Carols
Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Handel, Messiah Part 1 & Hallelujah Chorus
25 November 2017
Kington has a lovely air of expectation on concert nights. We drove through the town last year on one such night and saw the stream of people coming up the hill to the Church and knew we were missing out on something. So it was last Saturday, but this time, we were going to the right place.
The Church was full and expectant as usual, looking forward to Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Vaughan William’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Part one of The Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus. The Ceremony of Carols is a demanding work with its shifting rhythms and harmonies but the choir rose to the challenge, sang with great feeling and reflected well the differing moods of the carols. Here and in the Vaughan Williams there was lightness and delicacy in the singing, with the choir following well the tempi set by the conductor.
Messiah was sung by all with great confidence and obvious enjoyment. “Unto us a Son is born” illustrated this well, where “…Wonderful, Counsellor…” were sung with genuine conviction and expression but with nothing heavy or ponderous.
The soloists, apart from the soprano, were from The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and reflected their background. The soprano, Serena Jopson, was the youngest member of the choir. She was not overawed by her professional colleagues and, with her beautiful well-rounded voice, sang out confidently alongside them.
The orchestra played with great sensitivity to the singers and, as with the soloists, obviously enjoyed their part in the performance. The arrival of the trumpeter, always a dramatic moment, came as he appeared above everyone in the pulpit.
Our abiding memory of the concert was the evident joy the choir showed in what they were singing and this must surely reflect the relaxed and unobtrusive control of their conductor, Robert Evans. The audience stood as one for the Hallelujah Chorus and this was a testament to their enjoyment of the concert.
Liz Dean and Sue Spencer
Bach, Christmas Oratorio
26 November 2016
Were you watching Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday evening? If so you will have missed a fabulous treat! It was full house at St. Mary’s church for Kington Choral Society’s performance of Bach’s wonderful Christmas Oratorio. Fifty choir members sang their hearts out under the enthusiastic baton of their new MD, Robert Evans, instilling warmth into the chilly November night. Robert began his musical career as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral and after twists and turns in various careers went on to earn his living from singing. His musical interests are broad, and when not singing with internationally acclaimed ‘The Sixteen’ he finds time to lead Kington Choral. His comments after directing the choir’s first performance since he joined in September are encouraging, not only for the choir but also may well tempt potential singers to consider joining. He comments:
[The evening was], “A great success, in terms of performance, engagement, execution and goodwill… I particularly appreciated the warmth and praise for you from the soloists as they are singers whose opinion I respect”
It was indeed a privilege for Kington to host soloists of such calibre who all now go on to sing in a host of places in the run up to Christmas. Felicity Turner for example, mezzo soprano and described by Gramophone Magazine as ‘beguiling’, will be soloing in Oratorio again on 18th December, this time in Kristiansand Cathedral, Norway. Jessica Cale, soprano, with a successful career as a soloist and consort singer, gave an uplifting performance. Tenor, Jeremy Budd, who works with many well known conductors and ensembles had the audience in the palm of his hand with his rich deliverance while Samuel Oram, baritone, returned to enrich the Kington Choral singers after his performance here two years ago, with yet more accolades and experience under his belt.
This concert was professionally supported by the expertise of the renowned Marches Baroque Orchestra whose early instruments added a wonderful vitality and authenticity to the deliverance.
It is a proven fact that music reaches parts that other disciplines cannot, bringing healing and purpose in this troubled world and so it was fitting that the retiring collection, for the charity ‘Singing For The Brain’ will benefit the work to fight the ever growing problems of dementia.
Jenkins, The Armed Man / Rutter, Requiem
14 May 2016