Saturday, 17 November 2018

Spirit of Wales alive in Henley

A DESERVING charity â?? the Chiltern Centre for Disabled Children â?? a Welsh male voice choir

A DESERVING charity â?? the Chiltern Centre for Disabled Children â?? a Welsh male voice choir and eminent concert pianist Anita D’Attellis drew a capacity audience to St Mary’s Church in Henley for an eclectic evening of choral and keyboard music.

It was impeccably organised by fundraiser Emma Lerche-Thomsen, compèred by broadcaster Ian Edwards and sponsored by Factor 21.

The London Welsh Male Voice Choir, founded in 1902, may well be amateur, but their approach is highly professional, from the impeccable uniform of red blazers to their on-stage deportment and musical discipline.

Their programme was infinitely varied, embracing traditional Welsh folk songs, miners’ songs, spirituals, extracts from musicals and opera and First World War songs, a total of 17 separate numbers all sung without scores.

One was especially struck by music director Edward-Rhys Harry’s tight control and precision, matched to a man by the concentration, awareness and responsiveness of the singers. Models of ensemble, they could sing with a whisper, rise and fall on request or simply let rip and take the roof off, and always without loss of balance between the sections.

It is difficult to be selective with so many highlights to choose from, but I was particularly taken with Working Man by Rital MacNeil, Bring Him Home from Les Misérables and the setting of Dylan Thomas’s Sunset Poem from Under Milk Wood.

Interspersed were solos from eminent pianist D’Attellis and a piano duet for four hands with the choir’s award-winning accompanist, Annabel Thwaite. A beautifully crafted Clair de Lune by Debussy demonstrated D’Attellis’ command of technique and subtlety of interpretation.

Later came Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, where she showed she was totally comfortable with its extreme technical challenges while maintaining absolute control, clarity and musicality throughout. The runs were astonishingly even and as smooth as silk. It was an exemplary performance that richly deserved its partial standing ovation.

Following a felicitous arrangement of Welsh airs she was joined by Thwaite for a duet arrangement of America from Bernstein’s West Side Story. The two players’ musical empathy, coupled with the ability to keep synchronised in the most testing of rhythms and tempi, ensured an electrifying virtuoso performance.

A repeat concert must surely now be on the cards, which we look forward to with relish.

Review: Trevor Howell

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