Spring Concert 2015 – Review

Published by the Henley Standard

Baroque solid concert

THE concert of baroque music given by the South Chiltern Choral Society featured a stalwart of the choral repertoire and two relatively little performed pieces.

Led by Paul Burke, a rousing performance of Zadok the Priest, Handel’s much-loved anthem used at all coronations since that of George II, was greatly appreciated by the audience at the Great Hall of Reading University on Sunday, March 29.

As my neighbour said, “I’d like to hear that again. Could we have it as an encore at the end?”

The first half was completed by Purcell’s ode Come ye Sons of Art, an unfamiliar but lovely series of instrumental interludes, choruses and solo arias.

It gave an excellent opportunity for the orchestra led by Natasha Sachsenmeier, the soloists, Louise Wayman (soprano), Catherine Backhouse (mezzo-soprano) and Michael Hickman (baritone), and the choir to achieve an expressive, clean, rhythmically co-ordinated sound which worked well with the hall’s acoustics.

The highlight of the evening was Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, a short opera written for Charles II.

It is a superb piece demonstrating Purcell’s musical pre-eminence.

The choir, soloists and orchestra did it full justice. Burke’s emphasis on the precision of choir entries was amply justified by the very clean sound which co-ordinated well with the soloists and orchestra, producing a highly expressive performance.

It was capped by a beautiful rendering of Dido’s famous lament by Taya Smith (soprano).

It was a splendid evening and a tribute to Burke’s positive direction, building on the work over many years of Gwyn Arch, now choir president, who is recovering from illness and was in the audience.

Reviewed by: Paul Whitehead

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