Thursday, 09 December 2021

Baroque concert focused on the things that matter

Baroque concert focused on the things that matter

Aliquando Chamber Choir | St Mary’s Church, Henley |Saturday, November 6

IT almost didn’t happen, but Saturday, November 6, witnessed the amazing spectacle of the Aliquando Chamber Choir and their orchestra returning to perform once more again in front of a full audience.

The rich programme of Baroque-styled classical music had the perfect historical setting to help recreate the atmosphere — St Mary the Virgin’s church in Hart Street, with its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate wooden screens and high vaulted ceilings.

The concert was entitled Riches Revealed and it did not disappoint, as the first half flowed with an exciting series of pieces by Baroque composers, including Rheinberger, Bortnianski and Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditse Dyevo.

Schubert’s The Lord is My Shepherd created a level of intensity with its floating layer of sopranos soaring to spine-tingling heights.

Mendelssohn’s Lord in Thy Mercy signalled the interval, which saw Aliquando’s trademark hospitality — beautiful arrays of canapés generously donated by Henley’s local Spice Merchant, Hot Gossip, Luscombes at The Golden Ball and Jenny Swire, together with kindly donated refreshments.

For the second half, the choir was joined by a talented baroque ensemble of oboe, recorders, cello continuo, trumpet and timpani, together with a quartet of professional soloists — soprano Meryl Davies, mezzo-soprano Rosemary Clifford, tenor Alex Haigh and bass-baritone Daniel Tate, sensitively accompanied by pianist Joanna Miller-Shepherd.

A rousing start was made with Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art, written for Queen Mary’s birthday in 1694.

A glorious succession of choruses, arias and ritornelli entranced the audience with its imagination and sense of glory — the famous “Sound the Trump” sung by soprano Meryl Davies and mezzo-soprano Rosemary Clifford being of particular note. Before finishing with the larger work of Charpentier’s Te Deum, tenor Alex Haigh introduced and sang Purcell’s passionate If Music Be the Food of Love with great charm, accompanied by cello continuo and harpsichord.

Te Deum, with its stunningly brilliant opening bars that were selected as Eurovision’s official theme, and showcasing the ever-thrilling sound of Kevin Ransom on the trumpet, brought the concert to a fitting conclusion.

Yet this concert very nearly didn’t take place, with the staging and lighting support company suddenly going out of business the day before.

Anne Evans, musical director, demonstrated the true spirit of “The show must go on” by frantic phoning to secure the much-needed lighting from local hero Hughie Legh of HDLTec.

Last-minute action was also required to secure a replacement for the bass-baritone James Oldfield, due to illness.

The concert ended with Nomad’s Sue Prior talking about how they support Henley’s people in need.

She said that while Henley was indeed a very prosperous town, this made it doubly difficult for families to live here when they experience financial hardship.

She explained how Nomad works with local families to improve their physical, mental and spiritual capacities with after-school programmes, mentoring, outward bound activities and, most vitally, distribution of food parcels.

Last year saw more than 3,000 food parcels delivered to Henley families.

Aliquando’s motto is “Good music for good causes”. The audience showed their obvious appreciation of the night’s exciting music with very generous donations to Nomad’s retiring collection.

Many of the audience expressed their enjoyment as they left, but the last word goes to a person who, when thoughtfully reflecting the next day, said: “That was probably the best concert I have ever attended in my life!”

Terry Grourk

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