The final concert in the 2017-18 season for Harrogate Choral Society proved to be a great success. The venue was the church of St Wilfrid in Harrogate. With its impressive interior and splendid acoustics, St Wilfrid’s was filled to capacity by a very appreciative audience to greet the Society under the direction of its Conductor Andrew Padmore, with accompanist Thomas Moore, Director of Music and Master of the Choristers at Wakefield Cathedral, soloist Aofie O’Connell, Soprano and compere, Marilynne Davies.
In recognition of Leonard Bernstein’s 100 Anniversary of his birth, the concert programme was all-American themed and began with a stirring rendition of America (My Country tis of Thee), the original American National Anthem to the tune of our own National Anthem. This was followed by Charles Ives Variations on America brilliantly played on the organ by Thomas Moore who brought out much of the humour of this composition. The main item in the first half was Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, the Choir singing very confidently in Hebrew and Thomas Moore playing the tricky accompaniment with consummate ease. The treble solo was beautifully sung by young Charlie Trueman with an excellent quality that flowed like musical mist around and within the nave of the church.
The second half featured the Choir in a rather lighter vein. With excellent performances of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei, Whitacre’s Seal Lullaby and O Magnum Mysterium by Lauridsen as well as Lullaby of Birdland. A Nightingale Sang was nicely sung by the group, Beati, but the star of this half was undoubtedly the guest Soprano Aofie O’Connell who delighted us with a selection of songs from musicals including the amazingly virtuosic Glitter and be Gay from Bernstein’s musical, Candide.
Thank you to Andrew Padmore and all for this splendid evening of music.
10th March 2018, The Royal Hall, Harrogate
"Choral Society Celebrates 70 Years of Singing"
Harrogate Choral Society marks a huge milestone this year having presented concerts to the people of Harrogate and the surrounding district for 70 years. During this time, it has performed under many conductors who have contributed the talents of their professional work to furthering the important work of this most noble musical organisation.
To begin the celebrations this year, the Society, under its Conductor, Andrew Padmore together with the Chapel Choir of Harrogate Ladies College with the Amici Ensemble presented a fine performance of Mendelssohn’s great oratorio, Elijah. A superb quartet of soloists graced the stage, Samantha Hay, soprano, filled the Royal Hall with most wonderful and expressive sound, her voice rising through and riding on the canvas of orchestral sound provided by the composer. This was just beautiful. Her rendering of ‘Hear ye, Israel’ for example, was just superb. Gaynor Keeble, mezzo soprano, sang with a voice full of the most delicious richness whatever the dynamic level. Her portrayal of Queen Jezebel was excellent, dark, sinister and vaguely unsettling, perfect for the character. Luke Sinclair, tenor sang with ease and great sincerity in his role as Obadiah, the servant of Ahab. His lyrical tenor voice was ideal for the Hall, floating with gentle but insistent intensity. Alex Ashworth, bass was a splendid choice for the role of Elijah. A demanding sing with much work to do throughout the evening. Alex did an excellent job maintaining the continuity of the story and portrayal of the character. Anna Staveley beautifully sang the part of the youth, looking out to sea awaiting the sign from God.
‘Lift thine eyes’ was beautifully sung by the Chapel Choir from Harrogate Ladies College, Director of Music, Kate Morgan who formed an important addition to the Choral Society for the evening. The Choir were simply splendid, supported by the Amici Ensemble who themselves were on top form with excellent playing in every respect. The Choir, and the all-important Semi-Chorus, sang with verve, passion and endless amounts of energy and they deserve tremendous praise for their efforts. Andrew Padmore, who conducted the evening with great energy and yet great sensitivity is to be thanked for this great evening of music from a composer who is arguably one of the greatest composers in this genre from the 19th Century.
9th November 2017 The Royal Hall, Harrogate
"Outstanding Messiah at Royal Hall"
The performance of Handel’s Messiah by Harrogate Choral Society is, for many people the beginning of Christmas in Harrogate and it must have been very gratifying for the performers, orchestra, singers, soloists and conductor to perform to an almost full Royal Hall. Equally gratifying was the standard of performance the singers and players gave to the audience.
It was quite splendid with four excellent soloists, Bibi Heal, soprano, who sang with great breadth of tone and sensitivity both in the recitatives and her solos. ‘How beautiful are the feet’ and ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ were sung with almost heart-stopping beauty and with graceful phrasing and dynamic. Emma Watkinson, Mezzo Soprano, sang ‘But who may abide’, ‘O Thou that tellest’ and ‘He was despised’ with well-shaped and impressive drama, her voice full of well-controlled tone and delivered with musical excellence.
Luke Sinclair, Tenor sang with a warm and rich voice delivering ‘Comfort ye’ with great musical comfort and ‘Every valley’ with wonderful vitality. This was confident singing which became even more convincing after the interval. Stuart Orme, Baritone was impressively persuasive in ‘Thus saith the Lord’ and ‘For behold. Behold, I tell you a mystery’ and ‘The trumpet shall sound’ demonstrated an commanding excellence of his art.
Manchester Camerata which accompanied this performance were superb. Playing with sheer excellence, it showed a unanimity of musical thought which pervaded every part of this work. The phrasing was delicate and the cadences beautifully shaped. Andrew Padmore conducted with amazing energy, driving the choruses along at brisk tempo.
The Choral Society were simply wonderful, dancing along the semiquavers with such ease and yet controlling the quieter passage with great control and feeling. This was an absolutely splendid and impressive Messiah of which the Conductor and performers should be very proud.
A Gala Night of Opera
14th October 2017 The Royal Hall, Harrogate
"A Fine Evening of Musical Entertainment"
The Royal Hall, home to Harrogate’s Choral Society was well filled by a very enthusiastic audience for the Society’s autumn concert which took the form of a Gala Night of Opera. The Society under the baton of their Conductor, Andrew Padmore and accompanied by the Amici Orchestra presented a fascinating, varied and very attractive programme of operatic arias and choruses.
The Choral Society and Orchestra began with the Procession and Chorale from Die Meistersinger by Wagner, the Society in excellent voice and the Orchestra in fine form. This was followed by a chance to listen to the ladies of the choir producing very fine tone in the Chorus of the Peasant Girls from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky.
Andrew Padmore’s choice of soloists for the evening couldn’t have been better, Sarah Fox, soprano, brought the delights of her voice in the Recitative and Aria, Dove Sono from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and in Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, the latter sung with much beauty and pathos. John Cunningham, bass baritone, brought a rich and resonant voice to the evening, ideally suited to the surroundings. The Toreador Song was splendidly sung with great verve and panache following which John sang the utterly beautiful O pure and tender Star of Eve from Tannhauser by Wagner with great sensitivity and grace.
The two soloists joined in the ever popular La ci darem la mano by Mozart with just a little acting to make it most effective. The Choral Society, together with members of the Halcyon Singers sang very well indeed – really well with excellent tuning and tone in all voices and the accompaniment from the orchestra was always superb. Marilynne Davies compered the evening with great aplomb and relaxed humour. A fine evening of musical entertainment.