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2006 Spring Concert



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Audiences and singers are conservative creatures; they both know what they enjoy listening to and singing. Therefore Beaminster Singers choice of music was certainly bold and that boldness was rewarded with a splendid evening of music from around Europe, some of it not often performed. It was clear that while the choir revelled in its challenge, the audience were equally enthusiastic in what they heard, probably for some for the first time.

The first piece was Johannes Brahms’s Liebelieder Walzer and reading the most helpful programme notes, it was hard to believe that 17 different sections could all be based on the one musical rhythm: but this is exactly what happened. After an uncertain start, the choir settled down to demonstrate their flexibility and skill in giving musical director Hilary Kenway exactly what she was asking for. This was helped by a clever mix of fewer voices and a solo for the more intimate sections. Estelle Wood’s solo was especially effective as it demonstrated a full tone through a wide and challenging range.

To the uninitiated Benjamin Britten’s music is full of dissonance but many will have been surprised at just how effectively this was handled in his Flower Songs. The choir worked very hard to successfully portray this highly descriptive music. The marsh flowers were especially evocative of their squelchy environment complete with the danger of stinging nettles. This was achieved not only by their sound but by the choir’s acute sense of drama!

The first half closed with Seiber’s Hungarian Folk dances and was for many the highlight of the evening. The clarity of diction throughout this exciting piece was quite superb, combining hugely impressive expression and changes of tuning which produced a performance to stand comparison with any professional choir.

Unshackled from the technical demands of the first half, the choir and the men especially, revelled in the freedom of expression for Elgar’s Bavarian Dances. Uncomplicated music presents its own challenges and the lovely smooth transitions were handled with great aplomb. Throughout the evening but in particular the Elgar, the accompanying of Antony Saunders was skilfully sympathetic. Accompanists of this pedigree are hard to come by and his contribution should never be underestimated.

The exquisite Linden Lea was an unexpected bonus for the audience before we finally moved away from the secular to the sacred with Mozart’s very popular Ave Verum. This piece requires great concentration to hold the tuning but the choir achieved this. It is a great shame that the acoustics of St Mary’s Beaminster did not do justice to this beautiful piece or the rousing finale of Handel’s Zadok the priest. Despite the best efforts of the choir, the resonance of the building failed to reward their hard work.

Musical Director Hilary Kenway deserves great credit for producing a concert of high quality and which has justified the growing reputation of Beaminster Singers under her tutelage. With her enthusiasm, the choir’s appetite for hard work and the good fortune to be accompanied by the incomparable Anthony Saunders on both piano and organ, ably assisted by Murray Davis we can look forward confidently to more successes.

 John Coley