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Beloved Baroque

Review by Ann Simpson - 15.4.2018

On a beautiful spring evening in St Nicholas Church Warwick Diatonic Choir performed its 200th concert in the anniversary of its 30th year. This commemorative concert opened in the first half with the music of J S Bach, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Nun Danket Alle Gott moving on to the work of Henry Purcell ‘Come Ye Son’s of Art’. Diatonic and the soloists Ginny Yoon-Hwang (soprano) Penny Turnbull (Alto) and David Borsada (Bass) singing seamlessly through the odes.

All pieces related to celebration and the Purcell in honour of the birthday of Queen Mary 11 of England. Soloists choir and members of the Leamington Chamber Orchestra giving a most beautiful performance conducted by Bernard Sutton leaving the audience eagerly anticipating the concert’s second half George Frederick Handel ‘Messiah’ part 2, which depicts Jesus atoning sacrifice for our sins, his resurrection, his triumph over death and his eventual return to power and justice. Part 2 seeming to have a natural beginning and end and containing the most dramatic of music.

Rob Forbes (Tenor) joined the soloists at this stage with the performance again moving seamlessly between pieces and all performers giving the most committed and precise of performances. All conveyed a range of emotional meanings that clearly resonated with the audience. The surge of feelings within the church was palpable and the audience began to become part of the performance emotionally, the sorrows and the joys. The performance was a triumph, joyous and heart rending. The music and singing soaring and exquisite almost taking one’s breath away. The investment by all was clear to see and feel and the soloist’s choir orchestra conductor and accompanist absolutely gave it their all. The audience were brought to their feet in applause and encouraged to join in an encore of the Hallelujah chorus to their total delight. All would leave and return home having been immersed in a truly memorable experience. 

Extracts of a letter to our Musical Director, Bernard Sutton from Jonathan Rathbone, the composer of Lord Love-a-Duck, who was present at the concert.

Review by John Rathbone

'I must say a huge thank you for first of all putting on "Ducks!" and secondly for doing it so well. It really was a lovely concert. Everything was great! You may have a small choir, but they are very proficient. I was a little worried, because the piece really isn't very easy, but I need not have worried. You obviously have a good rapport with the singers and you had prepared them very well indeed! ...fine instrumentalists too, and they really enhanced all those pieces in the first half. What a good job you did there too!! And of course the soloists. They were excellent. Lovely voices and all performed with lovely character. Such a joy to watch and listen. ...Anyway, many, many thanks for putting on "Ducks" and my congratulations to you, the choir and the 'orchestra'. Please pass on my thanks and best wishes.'

Jesu Meine Freude by J.S.Bach and The Crucifixion by John Stainer - Sunday April 10th

Review by Sue Shepherd

I found this a highly enjoyable performance or two classics of vocal music.
Diatonic is a well knit and directed vocal ensemble of some seventeen voices who were performing music they loved and knew well.

The difficulties of the Bach Motet sounded mostly fluent and well-balanced and the chorale melody shone especially in the soprano line.

The Crucifixion introduced the two soloists: Matthew Sandy, tenor, gave a sensitive and well-shaped account of the different events in the story of Jesus’ trial and Crucifixion, reaching great heights in Father Forgive Them. David Borsada’s well-rounded bass was shown to great effect in the words of Christ. Both displayed their experience and vocal colour.

The chorus excelled in God so Loved the World, showing their neat ensemble and listening powers. They gave their all to the flowing melodic lines and were joined exuberantly by the congregation in the hymns!

An extremely important member of the ensemble was Edward Jenkins whose crucial organ accompaniment was handled with dexterity at all times. We all loved the prelude to introduce the Procession to Calvery and the sensitive playing as an equal partner with the soloists.

I thought it sad that so few people were there to hear the performance and hope that next time more will come to enjoy this experience.

Standing Ovations in Normandy!

Review by Donald Hollins

Diatonic and The Oriana Singers undertook a short tour in Normandy. As on previous tours both Musical Directors Bernard Sutton and David Moss shared the conducting.

We arrived in the coach at Portsmouth in a cloud-burst and scurried to our tiny cabins to fight over who was to sleep in the top bunk. Soft music awoke us at 5.30am and, bleary eyed, we journeyed to find breakfast in Caen prior to a fascinating visit to view the famous Tapestry in Bayeux. Then it was on to our modest but central hotel base in Rouen.

The following morning, quite refreshed, we visited Monet's famous garden at Giveny, which was awash with tulips, late-flowering daffodils, primroses and budding peonies. The famous arched bridge was the scene of endless photographs. The first concert of the tour ws held in St NIcholas's Church in the small town of Beaumont-le-Roger, which is twinned with Wotton-under Edge, home of several of Oriana's members. We all received a right royal welcome and a good meal before the amalgamated choirs earned a standing ovation at the end of the concert which had included works by Byrd, Tallis, Parry, Vaugham Williams and Durufle.

Next morning it was off to the coastal resort of Fecamp where we toured the ornately decorated Benedictine Distillery and lubricated our throats with small complementary glasses of this fiery liquor. Another concert was held in the evening at the church of St Etienne in Fecamp where, at the conclusion, another standing ovation was received. The programme included works by Poulenc and Durufle, and like the previous concert, ended on a lighter note with pieces such as 'Over Hill, Over Dale', 'Greensleeves', and 'Full Fathom Five'.

The penultimate day enabled the party to relax and enjoy a walking tour of Rouen, which took us into narrow medieval streets and passageways with overhanging first floors to the timber-framed houses.

Sunday, the final day, was surely the highlight of the tour with the choirs participating in Mass in the Cathedral. Palestrina's hauntingly beautiful 'Missa Aeterna Christi Munera' was sung reverently and movingly. Later in the day it was time to board our coach, take the ferry back to Portsmouth and then speed through the night into the small hours before reaching home.

The healthy condition of the English choral tradition had been firmly demonstrated in one of France's great cathedrals and two of its fine churches.

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