Monday, 27 April 2015

Clyst Valley Choral Society Andrew Carter "Benedicite" Felix Mendelssohn "Hymn of Praise" Holy Trinity Church Exmouth Sunday 20 April 2015

Myriam Prual
Janet Macdonald
Christopher Hunt

Holy Trinity Church
A small choir with a big sound - Clyst Valley Choral Society sang two rousing works praising the God of Christianity at Holy Trinity Church on Sunday 19 April. (The concert was a repeat of the previous evening's performance at St Margaret's Church, Topsham.)

The first half of the programme was Andrew Carter's "Benedicite". This choral setting of the words of the Christian Book of Common Prayer presents various elements of the physical world (and some of a hypothetical spirit world) recognising the Christian God as their creator and offering praise.

Plants, planets, placental mammals, precipitation, cetaceans, lepidoptera, anticyclones, disembodied souls, grandparents - and finally the whole Earth - are all exhorted to "Praise the Lord" in turn. The emphasis is clearly on religious instruction, but there is also a very evident sense of fun throughout the piece.

Paul Stock
Director of Music
Paul Stock's direction, and the choir's delivery emphasised the light-hearted frivolity of the piece. In a very effective piece of physical theatre, choir members held up toy animals just as they were named in the chorus. Not only was this highly amusing, it helped greatly in following the words - although this was almost unnecessary in view of the excellent diction of the choir members.

Despite only having twenty four members, the choir filled the large church with delightful sound - accompanied by a generous orchestra of local musicians. Violinist Sally Bull led, from the right hand side of Paul Stock's rostrum, with Chris Gould who also had his trumpet ready to provide its rousing sound as the occasion arose. Angela Blackwell and Nicola Smith provided second violin and viola, while Paul's wife Sue Stock played a very resonant and emotive 'cello part.

Matthew Jackson
South West Music School
St Margaret's Church Topsham
16 October 2013
The woodwind section was small but played a very significant rôle. Young musicians Mandy Fishleigh and Matthew Jackson played flute and oboe.

The clarinettist was none other than Phil Bonser - who had been in concert with Margaret Chave at Glenorchy only a few days before on Wednesday 15 April. (You can hear Mike Gluyas' recording of that concert on Soundart Radio's Classical Journey Redux by using MixCloud catch-up.)

Ben Lund-Conlon
playing percussion in a rare snapshot
Clyst Valley Choral Society
performance of John Rutter's "Requiem"
April 2012
Also essential to the sound, but sadly missing from the programme notes, was Ben Lund-Conlon whose tympani playing was impressive and his bass trombone fanfare - in duet with Sue Stock's 'cello - was utterly thrilling.

finally, from behind a pillar, Mark Perry added the pièce de résistance - a gently harmonious accompaniment on Holy Trinity's grand piano.

Three sensational soloists made up the complement. Tenor Chris Hunt - well known from his appearances with 'Opera Glass' - joined Opera Glass impressario, and soprano, Janet Macdonald, and French soprano Myriam Prual. All three were on top form and projected their voices magnificently whenever their turn came.

Janet Macdonald's home baked cakes
prove hard to resist
The sense of youthful ebullience continued in the interval, when 'drinks and refreshments' on the church mezzanine became a birthday celebration for one of the choirs long-standing supporters and organisers. Beautiful and delicious cup-cakes, decorated in the theme of Carter's "Benedicite", had been lovingly baked for the occasion by Janet Macdonald herself!

All these delights, both musical and culinary, were just the preamble to the big event of the evening.

Felix Mendelssohn: "Hymn of Praise"

This is the "Lobgesang" (Canticle) from Mendelssohn's Second Symphony.

H P Dicker's contribution to the music
The Holy Trinity organ, built in 1868
As the choir and orchestra resumed their places, Mark Perry had disappeared from view - to the upper gallery of the quire, at the organ console. The woodwind section were facing some serious competition from the church organ. (The organ is also the product of a local music-maker - H P Dicker built the organ at his works in James Street in Exeter in 1868. He lived just a stone's throw from the Phonic FM studios - in Gandy Street. The organ was rebuilt by a Leicestershire man, John Compton, in 1953.)

Less is more
Paul Stock weaves his magic with
Clyst Valley Choral Society Orchestra & Choir

With a peremptory blast from Ben Lund-Conlon's bass trombone and Chris Gould's trumpet, the opening fanfare led into the explosive opening chorus. The impressive way in which the choir commanded the audience's attention belied their small numbers.

Janet Macdonald & Myriam Prual
delightful soprano duets
The theme of praise soared to Himalayan heights as the hymn unfolded, giving way eventually to the gentle tones of Janet Macdonald's soprano solo from Psalm 150, "Everything that has breath praise the Lord", which instantly rekindled the spirit of Carter's "Benedicite".

Chris Hunt continued with an insistent exposition of Psalm 107, "Give thanks to him and praise his kindness." His tenor voice, increasing in maturity at each outing, held the audience captive with it's gentle forcefulness.

Chris Hunt &  Janet Macdonald
tenor & soprano sensation
Best of all were the duets. Janet Macdonald first sang Psalm 40 with Myriam Prual as a soprano duet, "Blessed is the man whose hope is the lord." Later Chris Hunt chimed in - "I sing your praises with my song forever!"

The swell and crash of voices swept the audience along in a celebration of devotion and worship through chorus, recitative and aria. Paul Stock had honed the dynamics of the small choir and orchestra to perfection, to get the maximum effect from each section of Mendelssohn's masterpiece, and to form a coherent and engaging whole.

The end was as sensational as the beginning, with a return to Psalm 150, and the exuberant closing chorus, with full orchestra, trombone and trumpet, and Mark Perry's resounding organ playing, completed this perfect musical experience in spectacular fashion:

"Everything that has breath praise the Lord, Hallelujah!"

Choir, orchestra & audience
show their appreciation for the soloists.
Posies for Janet Macdonald & Myriam Prual

Janet Macdonald, and Phil Bonser will be performing Shepherd on the Rock together again on the afternoon of Sunday 14 June at the Temple Methodist Church in Sidmouth, as part of Janet's classical ensemble, "Quorum". Their vocal and woodwind performance will be accompanied by a pianist with one of the safest pairs of hands in the business - Margaret Chave.

Further details to follow

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