Summer 2010

 Viva España

Saturday 10 July at Highdown School, Caversham

On Saturday we went to a Spanish fiesta only to enter what appeared to be an aircraft hanger with lots of people milling around dressed in black and gold braid. Actually, the aircraft hanger turned out to be the new hall at Highdown School in Emmer Green and, despite its initial appearance, it does have a remarkably good acoustic.

The South Chiltern Choral Society usually presents a Summer concert with a theme and this year it had a Latin feeling with music from Ariel Ramirez as the main work. Ramirez is a contemporary composer from Argentina who died earlier this year. He wrote his Misa Criolla in 1964 which draws heavily on folk influences and it was very appropriate to use Cafecito, a group of musicians playing music in the style of old Havana. The mass also has a tenor soloist, Roberto Ortiz.

This young man has a beautiful lyrical tenor voice and was a perfect choice for the mass.  He reminded me of a very young Pavarotti in looks and sound and he also sang two love songs from Argentina which enchanted the audience. Cafecito also provided two sets of Cuban classics which were very suitable for the climate although I did feel that their flautist had a rather harsh sound. The congas, timbales, bongos and double bass set a good rhythm for all the music in the evening.  It was interesting to hear about the different styles such as the cha cha cha, salsa, bolero, and danzons which is the Cuban national dance song.

There were also performances from the Raymond Miles Dancers of five Latin-American classics sung by the choir and it was good to see some colour and movement around the hall. After all, Latin-American is really for dancing to!

An interesting evening, thoroughly enjoyed by the capacity audience who no doubt trod those dance steps back to their cars. I’m not sure that all these pieces were suitable for large choirs; they depend entirely on the often complex rhythms and while the choir sang well, they sometimes couldn’t provide that sense of dynamism that the music requires.  Full marks, however, to musical director Gwyn Arch for providing yet again an evening of different music.

John Evans

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