Thursday, March 26, 2015

A moving Passion by Newbury choralists



NEWBURY Choral Society opened its 130th season with gusto, with a performance of Bach’s St John Passion. The timing and setting for this major work were appropriately close to Eastertide and performed at Douai Abbey.

The work was performed in an English translation prepared by the musicologist Neil Jenkins. Purists may wince, but using the vernacular made a direct appeal to the large and appreciative audience.

Under their conductor Cathal Garvey, the choir maintained an excellent tone throughout this demanding work. They were ably accompanied by Charivari Agréable Simfonie. This band specialises in music of the Baroque period and the rich sound it produced was very much to this reviewer’s taste. The woodwind section was particularly impressive.


Newbury Choral Society: St John Passion, at Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, on Saturday, March 14

The demanding part of the Evangelist (the narrator) was most ably sung by Simon Wall. This was his second appearance in the Passion with the Newbury choir, having taken the same part in a performance in 2004. The other soloists were Janet Coxwell (soprano), Annie Gill (alto), Greg Skidmore (baritone) and David Ireland (bass). Janet Coxwell seemed a little tired in her first aria, but soon recovered herself to give the performance her fellow Newburians expect. Likewise, Annie Gill was rather hesitant at the outset but did well as her confidence grew. Greg Skidmore took the role of Pilate and sang with aplomb while David Ireland gave an arresting and dramatic, even operatic, performance.


One must also acknowledge the solo part sung by choir member Jeremy Wright. The part may have been small, but he did it well.

The final chorus, Sleep well, was perhaps the most moving of all the choruses and chorales. It was beautifully sung with a most sympathetic accompaniment. Here was a quiet and dignified end to an excellent evening.

Newbury should be proud of its choral society. It goes from strength to strength under the direction of its resident conductor. The next concert will show a completely different side to the choir. It will be a Gilbert and Sullivan spectacular, performed at St Nicolas Church, on June 20. Be there.

B.M. Freeman

Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News