Camille Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio: Op 12
Jean-Philippe Rameau Hymne à la nuit
William Byrd Ave Verum Corpus.
Benjamin Britten Cermony of Carols: Op 28
Camille Saint-Saëns Fantaisie for violin and harp: Op 124
We received the following appreciation from one audience member:
I have been to a number of concerts given by your excellent group and I find that once again my worst fears were confounded. Every time I’m impressed with the difference of your programme selection. For example, the Bonocini ‘Stabat Mater’ and the wildly different Zelenka ‘Miserere’ were two concerts I enjoyed enormously. As someone who regularly attends choral concerts I have a sense of relief when I don’t have to listen to yet another mass or requiem by Bach, Mozart, Faure or Handel (great composers as they are and mainstays of the choral repertoire.)
To come to a programme of Saint-Saëns and Benjamin Britten therefore is both enjoyable and unusual. The inclusion of the harp and violin ‘Fantasie’ balanced the evening beautifully and created a welcome opportunity to reflect on the sheer diversity of Saint-Saëns’ music. What a find this young and talented violinist Elizabeth Nurse is!
The opening two unaccompanied pieces were well rehearsed and whilst ‘Ave Verum’ is sung frequently the adjoining selection of Rameau’s hymn of lament was an unusual and inspired choice. The choir gave both of these pieces a sense of timing and delivery which started the evening well.
The ‘Christmas Oratorio’ was delightful, the soloists here were well balanced and sung beautifully, with the choir once again well-rehearsed and singing with a sensitivity, especially in the ‘Gloria Patri’, that I found quite moving. The work was new to me, and many in the audience also, and one I should like to hear again.
Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ I have heard many times before and usually with just treble voices, so it was a great pleasure and surprise to hear the lower registers join in with this arrangement. No doubt there has been much discussion on how to pronounce middle English but my view is that if one sings loudly and enthusiastically enough then nothing is lost in the interpretation, and I did indeed feel “Wolcum.” The icy coldness of the interlude had the audience spellbound and surprisingly breathless with concentration (well done Anneke Hodnett whose playing throughout the evening was to a very high standard) and the whole work was delivered by choir and two soloists to my complete enjoyment.
Thank you, All Saints’ Singers for the concert, the mulled wine and the minced pie. I shall come again!
And Patrick Salisbury wrote:
This was certainly a most successful concert. It was ingenious to devise such a varied programme with accompaniment by an orchestra comprising only strings and continuo but with the addition of a superb harpist. In the event, many of us were introduced to a peaceful Rameau Hymn and a fine Christmas Oratorio by Saint-Saens. In the latter, the chorus really came into their own with outstanding contributions by the five excellent soloists
To begin the second half of the programme, it was a bonus to have our new orchestral leader Elizabeth Nurse joining the harpist Anneke Hodnett in a wonderful performance of Saint-Saen’s beautiful “Fantaisie”. Inevitably, Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” provided the climax to the concert; here the choir sang with accuracy and understanding, employing subtly contrasted dynamics. Again, the presence of a dedicated harpist must have given them that extra incentive to excel. Although one might say that, in this concert, the choir did not have as major a role as might normally be the case, their contribution was always well prepared and carefully presented.
Altogether a most enjoyable occasion, a view obviously shared by the larger than ever audience. I do hope Sebastian Thomson will stay with us!
With very best wishes – Patrick
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Our annual barbecue was once again held at Pamela Vivian’s home. The event was enjoyed by some 22 members and friends of the choir. The cloudy and cool weather did not dampen spirits, although a number of us preferred the comfort inside Pamela’s house. Tony Furze delivered as usual a generous offering of great barbecued meat which was complemented by salads and desserts prepared by members of the choir. It really was a lovely event and we hope to repeat it again next year.
As a tribute to Pamela Vivian for all that she has done, and continues to do, for the choir, the members offered her an evening to be remembered at Garsington Opera this summer. She sent us her thanks:
Dear All Saints’ Singers,
I cannot tell you how amazed I was at the extraordinary generosity you showed me this summer. The whole evening at Garsington Opera at Wormsley was truly magical. We started with a welcoming champagne ‘hors d’oeuvre’ followed by a wonderful first act of “Semele”. We then had a top notch interval meal in Jamie’s marquee restaurant and ended with the sumptuous and magical second half of Handel’s most wonderful opera. It was a truly magnificent evening in a simply scintillating setting. The weather was fine and the fairy-light atmosphere as dusk came and night descended was totally in keeping with the beauty of the music. This wonderful evening will be one of my most beautiful memories.
Tony and Jenny, David and Angela and David’s sister, Margaret, were there as also were Paul and Carol Gibbs and their daughter. We had an absolutely fabulous evening with Pamela.
This was another great entertaining and fund-raising event.
Reactions to the event.
Janet Knowles said:
Last night was a triumph. Thank you so much. Our friends loved it, and as my David pointed out, I enjoyed it even more than a folk concert at the Albert Hall on Easter day! Vamp were terrific – what talent. The supper was very good, and clever of you to do it for the ticket price. Several on our table commented on that – they were expecting a mere nibble.
Susan King wrote:
What a brilliant result! It was a very happy event which we enjoyed greatly. Thank you so much to you and all the committee for working so hard to give us such a wonderful evening.
The indulgent among us ate chocolate eggs, some sat down to enjoy a good lunch with wine, followed by feet up on the sofa, a good book, a spot of television perhaps or even Verdi’s Aida live from The Met.?
Instead, a small but enthusiastic group of 15 singers chose to gather in The Matrix to sing madrigals and part songs.
The first rehearsal given by Sebastian in his new “relaxed” style was great fun. His carefully chosen range of music from the 16th century gave every voice a chance to shine and an opportunity to listen to each other only possible in a small group. (When we got the notes right, that is!) Tony’s particular favourite; with its repeated Fa la la chorus and suggestions of merry lads and dainty nymphs, is truly the “month of Maying”
Much more to come from this group.
The money collected was sufficient to be able to arrange a day out to include a Garsington Opera with dinner and champagne showing the esteem in which she is held.
Performed on the 2nd April 2017
- Purcell: O sing unto the Lord, Z44
- Purcell: Rejoice in the Lord alway, Z49
- Purcell: Thou knowest, Lord, Z58
- Bach: Brandenburg Concerto, No. 3
- Vivaldi: Nulla in Mundo, RV 630
- Antonio Bononcini: Stabat Mater
- Josef Rheinberger: Abendlied
Comments on the performance
Patrick Salisbury wrote:
Sebastian has certainly made his mark as last night’s concert clearly showed and amply demonstrated his ability to inspire a high level of musicianship in singers and players alike.. The opening Purcell work quickly revealed what a fine orchestra we now have and the soloists were entirely at one with the authentic style they established in the opening prelude. The choir’s confidence and quality was particularly evident when singing the beautiful but challenging unaccompanied six-part motet by Rheinberger.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 was a brilliant and stylish performance that I found positively stunning! The verse anthem that completed the first part of the programme again demonstrated an inspired appreciation of Purcell’s wonderful music.
Penelope Appleyard’s beautiful singing of Vivaldi’s “Nulla in pax sincera” provided a perfect introduction to the “Stabat Mater” which made a great impression upon me. Great pains had been taken to express the utter devastation experienced by the Virgin Mary and the gradual transition to the inner feelings of the present day participant. Suitable restraint was shown where appropriate but, as in the “Virgo virginium”, the chorus were able to provide some sparkle as necessary. The soloists’ contributions were sensitively offered and well performed. Despite the very solemn nature of the work the performance offered ideal preparation for approaching Passiontide.
John Lofthouse, our Bass soloist, wrote:
to say thank you for last week’s concert. It was lovely to be back with you all again in Sutton Courtenay and to sing such an interesting array of music. The choir and orchestra were fantastic – so please pass on my thanks and admiration.
Another audience member wrote:
I was very kindly given a ticket to your most recent concert and to which I reluctantly went, but felt a duty to attend and support the singer who insisted I came.
“Bononcini” I said, “Never heard of him and oh dear amateur choirs; no thank you.”
How wrong can I be? The delightful setting of All Saints Church created just the right atmosphere, for both the choir and audience. The first Purcell work began in a joyful and energetic way as to easily portray the name “Bell Anthem”. What a great start; but to listen spellbound to the choir unaccompanied singing for the next two works, “Thou knowest Lord “and “Abendlied” was pure joy. Of course after such mesmerising singing it was impossible to applaud but boy, did I want to!
As if this wasn’t enough the orchestra playing Brandenburg 3 was pure delight. The very accomplished leader Elizabeth Nurse is a real find for you and she led the ensemble with authority and stylish virtuosity. I also enjoyed the somewhat operatic “O sing unto the Lord” to end the first half.
The wonderful setting of “Nulla in Mundo Pax”, was so deeply moving, sung brilliantly by Penelope Appleyard, and sensitively accompanied by the strings. Where do you find these wonderful musicians? The translation is “there is no peace in the world” How wrong can you be after hearing this?
Well, the “Stabat Mater” took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed every moment, the choir giving their all and singing with great sensitivity and direction. All four of your soloists were easy to listen to, nothing forced and a delight to watch. The singing of Clemmie Franks, in two beautiful arias had me spellbound. What a voice!
Many congratulations on a really fine performance and lovely evening. You have removed any doubts I might have had over your amateur status and I await your next performance with great pleasure.”