Sunday, 17 December 2017

Choirs and soloists were in good voice for a great cause

Choirs and soloists were in good voice for a great cause

SATURDAY evening saw another Henley Choir Festival at St Mary’s Church.

Started by Elizabeth Hodgkin in 2009 when she was mayor, it’s now in its eighth season and bigger than ever with 11 choirs taking part from Henley and the surrounding areas.

The choirs were those of St Margaret’s, Harpsden; St Nicholas, Rotherfield Greys; St Thomas of Canterbury, Goring, with St Mary’s, Streatley; St Mary the Virgin, Henley; St John the Baptist, Kidmore End, with Christ the King, Sonning Common; and All Saints’, Rotherfield Peppard with the All Saints’ Junior Choir; Aliquando; and the Hambleden Valley Choir.

In the first half of the evening each choir demonstrated its musicianship by singing two pieces, one of which was unaccompanied.

The repertoire chosen was mainly in the English choral tradition, ranging in composition from 1600 (Adrian Batten) to 2013 (Eric Whitacre). Zoltán Kodály was also represented in one choir’s contribution — a lovely rendering of Ave Maria for high voices.

All the choirs showed their love of singing and there were many examples of unified tone, harmony and clear delivery, especially from choirs fortunate enough to have more voices to a part.

There was also constant eye contact between singers and directors, which communicated enthusiasm, clear diction and dynamic range to the audience.

It was delightful to see young singers enjoying the choral repertoire — their disciplined voices gave a pure tone to the overall sound.

Fauré’s Requiem was sung by all the choirs in the second half of the concert under the leadership of Frances Brewitt-Taylor, with David Old as organist.

The singers, now more relaxed as part of a massed choir, could really enjoy singing. In particular, confident tenors and basses brought a balance to the piece not always apparent in choral concerts. Fauré divided the parts in the lower register, making for a rich harmonic texture, while the upper voices float over them.

Libera Me, led by baritone soloist James Poston was particularly moving, leading to the ethereal In Paradisum. Soprano soloist Rebecca Bell’s rendering of Pie Jesu was warm and rich.

All organisers and participants, including the soloists, gave their time without payment in aid of the local branch of Parkinson’s UK, which aims to support those suffering from the illness and their carers here in Henley.

The charity meets every week to provide exercise, voice training and social activities.

For more information or to make a donation, please call 07766 666551 or email nickie.parkinsonshenley@
gmail.com

Jenny Eckersley

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