Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Walton Belshazzar's Feast
Poulenc Gloria

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 13 May 2017

Belshazzar's Feast flyer

Accompanied by the Amici Ensemble, the programme comprised two major choral compositions interspersed with orchestral and choral items. The concert opened with two works by the French composer Gabriel Faure. The first was the Cantique de Jean Racine. This was beautifully sung. The second was Pavane. The tempo for this was slow and relaxed providing a challenge for the Amici Ensemble which played with even and sonorous tone. The first half concluded with a good and confident performance of the Gloria by Francis Poulenc. With its short cut and emphatic phrases as well as distinctive harmony unique to Poulenc, this work is attractive and it was obvious that the society not only knew it well but that it had been rehearsed with care. Katy Kelly, soprano, replacing the indisposed Sarah Power, sang the third and fifth movements with ease and beauty. The last movement was sung with care and control, producing some of the best pianissimos the writer can remember.

Following a fine rendering of William Walton's march Crown Imperial, the concert concluded with his Belshazzar's Feast. This, perhaps the most spectacular of his compositions is vocally and orchestrally difficult and rhythmically challenging, it takes a good choir, orchestra and conductor to really bring it off all three were present together with some very fine singing and playing from both choir and orchestra. Here, we heard the fine voice of Ashley Riches, bass-baritone as narrator. The sopranos and altos sang with excellent tone and diction while the tenors and basses produced remarkable tone and power producing the dramatic overall sound essential for this work.

The orchestra played faultlessly and the whole composition was brought together with the tremendous talent of the conductor Andrew Padmore.

Adrian Selway