Midsummer songsters


It was lovely to be back at Douai Abbey, following its closure for repairs and the building looked resplendent in the evening sunshine. Newbury Choral Society dedicated its midsummer concert to Godfrey Abbott, a lifelong member who sadly passed away last year and there were two wonderful tributes inside the programme, from the choir and from Godfrey’s daughter, Sue.

I was lucky enough to review their June 2018 concert and I think the biggest difference was that, this year, the choir remained behind the altar, next to the organ, for the entire evening which was difficult for those sitting in the centre of the nave, with the altar blocking all sight of the singers not to mention rather a lack of connectivity between the chorus and its audience.

The first half consisted of the first movement of Rutter’s Gloria and Lauridsen’s lush and quirky Lux Aeterna. A challenge for any choir, this five movement piece gave each section the chance to shine (there were some lovely blended sounds from the tenor section) and we enjoyed the delicious dissonance, the gently flowing lullaby style third movement and satisfyingly rousing three-in-a-bar Veni, Sancte Spiritus.



Newbury Choral Society: Lux Aeterna, at Douai Abbey, on Saturday, June 29

The outer movements are unmistakably from the pen of this inspired composer and this was one of the highlights.

Musical Director, Cathal Garvey, announced each piece and explained that, although the concert was woven around a 20th century theme, they were going to take a sojourn back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with Purcell’s I Was Glad and Tomkins’ I Heard A Voice From Heaven and these two made an interesting foil for the remainder of the second half.



The choir is planning its forthcoming trip to Norway (how exciting) and so, it was appropriate to hear something by Grieg and his Ave, maris stella delighted us with its lovely melodies, showing off the purity of the soprano section.

Lots of stamping and finger clicking from Cathal suggested the choir wasn’t overly confident with Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs but they were soon back on form with a self-assured performance of Britten’s Festival Te Deum. Special mention to the talented organist and pianist, Steve Bowey, what would Newbury do without him?

The audience clapped loudly and as Douai returned to its natural state of silence and meditation, we marvelled at the warmth of the summer air outside the abbey. I look forward to hearing NCS again soon but next time, I’d like to be a little closer to all that wonderful music making.




Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News