Thursday, 07 July 2022

Good to have choral society back again

BENSON Choral Society returned to live singing with a lovely spring concert under the baton of their new musical director, David Wordsworth.

Singing with four fine soloists and the Elgar Orchestra, a local orchestra led by Ron Colyer, they delighted their audience in Dorchester Abbey with two pieces well chosen for our times, Haydn’s Nelson Mass (also known aptly as Mass for Troubled Times) and Chilcott’s Requiem.

The concert opened with choir and orchestra performing a short piece of Ukrainian music, A Prayer for Ukraine, while the audience stood reflecting on the current European horror.

Fittingly, the first half of the programme continued with Chilcott’s contemplative Requiem, an accessible composition to listen to but I suspect rather tricky to sing.

A quiet yet persistent rhythm present in the Introit and Kyrie was sustained by the chorus while the tenor soloist Bo Wang sang with an expressive enthusiasm and soprano Iúonó Connolly’s clear sweet voice soared above choir and orchestra.

Tenors and basses shone in the Offetorio and the whole choir provided an effective, suitably muted background for Connolly’s Pie Jesu with the choir occasionally contributing to effective echo and response sections. Santus came as a clever contrast with chirpy, syncopated sections and the choir managing some delicious dissonance, although at times there was a danger of these being overshadowed by the orchestra.

It may be a result of the acoustics of the abbey but throughout I found it difficult to hear the words of the choir, even in Thou Knowest, Lord.

The final movement, Lux Aeterna, was sensitively sung by choir and soloists with Connolly finally raising us all towards the light.

The second half of the concert comprised the well-loved Haydn’s Nelson Mass (Missa in Angustiis) when the choir and soloists were joined by two additional soloists, the alto Clemmie Franks and Jacobo Ochoa, baritone.

The Haydn was a treat, especially for those in the audience who had prepared the same piece two years ago only for it to be cancelled due to the first lockdown.

The choir made a strong start with a clear Kyrie Eleison soon to be joined by Connolly adding her excellent high soprano line. The singing of Gloria was enriched by Franks’s beautiful alto voice and Ochoa’s powerful baritone line joining the other soloists and choir.

Credo was taken at a cracking pace, certainly Con Spirito, followed by a nicely achieved contrast between Et Incarnatus and Et Resurrexit.

Sanctus was lyrical with good clear voice leads, including from the altos who tended to be a bit swamped by other voices elsewhere.

Connolly produced sparkling soprano lines in the Benedictus and the chorus sopranos delivered wonderfully clear high notes.

The gorgeous Agnus Dei was sung by the four soloists from which we moved to the final jubilant Dona Nobis.

Welcome back to the concert circuit, Benson Choral Society, and thank you for an enjoyable evening of live music.

Susan Edwards

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