For the fallen

Newbury Choral Society/Southern Sinfonia Winter Concert,
at St Nicolas Church, on Saturday, November 29



NEWBURY Choral Society’s Winter Concert began with Elgar’s The Spirit of England, written in 1916 as a setting for Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, words from which are heard at every Remembrance Day service since 1918.

Successful as morale-boosting music for the time, there was a stirring open start from Southern Sinfonia and the choir, under the direction of conductor Cathal Garvey. The orchestra played with brisk, sizzling attack from bar one, with the clear, resonant voice of soprano Claire Bessent ringing out over the top.

The choir, voices raised purposefully, blended perfectly with the orchestra under Garvey’s direction. The following slower, second movement was marked by the distinctive singing of the choir, carefully varying the dynamics.


After the third movement, we heard George Butterworth’s delightful The Banks of Green Willow, a rich, pastoral, melodic ballad which the composer constructed from a Sussex folk song of 1907. This glorious mix of strings, woodwind and harp was sensuously performed by Southern Sinfonia.

Butterworth was a war hero who captured a series of enemy trenches in 1916, before being shot dead. The first half of this lively concert ended with Holst’s Ode to Death, the changing textures handled extremely well by everybody and the music not anything like as depressing as the title would suggest.


After the break, and some welcome non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pies, there was a richly textured, stirring performance of De Profundis, a large-scale work by French composer Marcel Dupré. Claire Bessent, tenor Paul Austin Kelly and baritone Colin Campbell were all featured here as the conductor extracted every nuance of sensitivity from this rousing music with great skill.

Four compositions, a common thread of remembrance for the fallen and a nobility in the singing and playing that raised the concert to a very high level.



Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News