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Concerts 2018

Romsey Abbey - 19th May 2018 - Review

Conductor: Graham Kidd

Rutter: Mass of the Children
Haydn: Mass in Time of War

The Festival continued to mark the centenary of World War I by delivering a powerful performance of Haydn’s 1797 Mass in Time of War to a delighted audience in Romsey Abbey. However, apart from a minor key Benedictus (for solo voices) and a solemn start to the final Agnus Dei featuring threatening drum-beats, Haydn creates a very positive even optimistic version of the Mass. This was reflected in the sprightly, energetic approach of the large choir and the efficient Festival chamber orchestra. Crisp rhythms, bright, tuneful chording and confident, balanced part-writing in fugues such as Et vitam venturi showed both the thorough preparation of the three participating choirs - Compton & Shawford, Sarisbury and Winchester City - and their corporate enthusiasm for this music. Neat instrumental playing, including a lyrical cello solo in the middle of the Gloria, added to the enjoyment of this piece.

The concert began with John Rutter’s atmospheric Mass of the Children and again the orchestra contributed significantly to capturing the many mood changes. The choir responded with great warmth and sensitivity both in the more serene and quiet moments but also in Rutter’s signature irregular metres. It was sad that GCSE examinations decimated the children’s choir. Yet with a small amount of adult reinforcement they were impressively assured in their independent lines throughout. The adult choirs could take a leaf out of the youngsters’ book for the latter rarely took their eyes off the conductor. If ensemble suffered slightly at the end of this Mass it was certainly not the fault of conductor Graham Kidd. He is meticulous about cues and always scrupulous in establishing tempo changes. He watches his singers……they should return the compliment !

WCMF fielded an excellent quartet of young solo voices. Their parts in the Haydn were small but perfectly delivered by soprano Jocelyn Somerville, mezzo Felicity Turner, tenor Adrian Green and bass Edmund Saddington. Jocelyn and Edmund made more substantial and very beautiful contributions to the Mass of the Children. This well chosen programme made for a most enjoyable and thought-provoking evening, bringing the Festival’s 97th season to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Derek Beck


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