Sunday, 9 March 2014

Ode to Joy: Beethoven's Ninth (Choral) Symphony Exeter Cathedral Exeter Philharmonic Choir join Exeter Symphony Orchestra Saturday 8 March 2014 SOLOISTS Soprano: Lesley-Jane Rogers Mezzosoprano: Juliet Curnow Tenor: Tom Hobbs Bass: Julian Rippon

Two conductors together for Beethoven IX
Andrew Millington: Exeter Philharmonic Choir
Brian Northcott: Exeter Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven at the Cathedral - for one night only. Visitors were in Exeter from Australia and the United States, to see this spectacular collaboration. Exeter Symphony Orchestra, who usually perform at Southernhay United Reformed Church, definitely needed a bigger venue for this extravaganza.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is not only orchestral, but choral. For the final movement, the "Ode to Joy", Exeter Symphony Orchestra conductor Brian Northcott joined forces with Cathedral Musical Director Andrew Millington and his Exeter Philharmonic Choir.

Just getting all the musicians into position was a major undertaking. With the orchestra set up, the hundred voice choir had to make their way in an orderly fashion onto the vast temporary staging at the front of the Nave. Once they were all there, they sat quietly to enjoy a little Wagner. Brian Northcott conducted the orchestra in the overture to Wagner's "Mastersingers of Nurenburg" opera.

The orchestra played beautifully - as the choir, and the audience in the nave, looked on appreciatively. Then Brian passed the baton, quite literally, to Andrew Millington who conducted the delightful "Blest Pair of Sirens" by Hubert Parry, for choir and orchestra. The choir singing over the top of the orchestra was a wonderful combination.

These two pieces, however, were just a taster of what was to come. After the interval the choir members took their places again, with one notable addition. In the middle of the front row was Andrew Millington himself.

With the audience and musicians ready to begin, Colonel Robert Jordan MBE, as Regional Director of The Soldiers Charity in the South West, climbed into the pulpit to explain about the work of the charity, and the increased demand for their help following military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, military downsizing, and credit exhaustion in the UK.

Many representatives of the UK military were at the cathedral to help collect more money and raise awareness. Regular soldiers circulated selling programmes and generally making themselves useful. A sergeant in the Household Guards, working in Exeter as a recruiting officer after serving in Afghanistan, cut a very dignified figure in his dress uniform.

Hamish and Moffet Munro, who provided the venue for the Exeter Symphony Orchestra concert in aid of The Soldiers Charity on 26 March 2011, were also at the Cathedral to support the cause again.

Once again the choir formed an extension of the audience as Brian Northcott conducted the majestic opening allegro. The sound was very impressive, lots of brass, lots of woodwind - and familiar percussionist Ali Board joined tympanist Tracy Austin, to play the thunderous bass drum - and tremulous triangle!

The scherzo was lively. The adagio was gentle. The orchestra were in fine form, and Brian's masterful leadership brought out the best of their sound. As the Adagio closed four more musicians appeared from the wings. First came Lesley-Jane Rogers, who was standing in for Alison Burnett as soprano soloist at only three days notice. Alison was unable to sing because of a rather nasty throat infection.

Lesley was followed by the ever popular Exeter mezzo-soprano Juliet Curnow. Juliet lives and works in Stroud now, but makes occasional return visits to Devon for special occasions such as this. The tenor was also from Exeter - the now world famous Tom Hobbs. What a treat to see and hear him at the Cathedral again. Finally, and looking very magnificent in his tails, bass Julian Rippon joined them on the stage.

The concluding, choral, movement, which includes the impressively memorable "Freude, schöner Götterfunken" (Joy, beautiful spark of God), opens with a spectacular bass solo. Julian rose to the occasion, filling the Cathedral with his splendid voice. Nearest to him, in the front row of the nave, was his own father, David Rippon, enjoying the full force of that outstanding voice.

Even members of the audience sitting in the most remote aisle seats were able to enjoy the sound equally easily. As the other soloists took their turn to make their contribution, they were equally powerful and expressive. A perfect combination of voices.

An then there was the choir. The orchestra had been impressive, but the addition of one hundred exultant voices made the final movement exactly what Beethoven had intended. An Ode to Joy! That singular wall of sound, filled with the sensational musical ideas of Beethoven, was overwhelmingly joyous on that wonderful evening at Exeter Cathedral.

This must be the high point of the year so far - but there is much more to come. The Philharmonic Choir will be back at the Cathedral on Saturday 17 May for Bach's "Mass in B minor". Meanwhile Exeter Symphony Orchestra will be preparing for another visit from Thomas Hobbs - and Alison Burnett - for a selection of music by Johannes Brahms, Joseph Canteloube, Gerald Finzi and Ernest Moeran - in the slightly smaller but equally auspicious United Reformed Church in Southernhay.

Capacity crowd at Exeter Cathedral

Colonel Robert Jordan MBE
Regional Director South West
Army Benevolent Fund
The Soldier's Charity

Sergeant: Household Guard

Young soldiers sell programmes
- more funds for ABF
Exeter Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Brian Northcott
Richard Wagner: Overture to
"Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg"
Exeter Philharmonic Choir
Hubert Parry: "Blest Pair of Sirens"
Exeter Symphony Orchestra
& Exeter Philharmonic Choir
Ludwig van Beethoven: Choral Symphony
Double Bass & 'Cello
Garry Lester & Rosie Lester
French Horn: Tracey Alder
Trumpets: Tony Hindley & Myles Taylor
Bass Trombone: Paul Rycroft
Bassoon: Andrea Higgins
Clarinet: Merrill Millington
Violinists backstage
Beauty in a box
ContrabassoonPeter Dawson
'Cello: Ruth Lass
Bass: Peter Jones
Flute: Ruth Molins
Flutes: Ruth Molins & Jayne Hannah
Viola: Peter McLean-Buechel
Violin: Andrew McPherson
Viola: Stuart Holmes
D-Trumpet: Myles Taylor
Soprano: Lesley-Jane Rogers (left)
who was soloist at Brian Northcott's
debut Cathedral Concert in 1991
Vaughan Williams: "A Sea Symphony"
stands in for Alison Burnett (right)
and receives the posy

Andrew Millington
Exeter Philharmonic Choir
Exeter Cathedral
Saturday 17 May 7.30pm
Conductor: Andrew Millington
Tickets: Front Nave £21
(Supper Club + Front Nave £43)
Rear Nave £17
Unreserved Side Aisle £12
01392 499211  Book online

Exeter Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Brian Northcott
Exeter Symphony Orchestra
Southernhay Church Exeter
Saturday 12 July 7.30pm
Orchestra Conductor: Brian Northcott
Johannes Brahms: "Academic Festival Overture"
Joseph Canteloube: "Songs of the Auvergne"
Gerald Finzi: "Dies Natalis"
Ernest John Moeran: "G minor Symphony"
Tickets: details TBC

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