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Concert review: Bishop's Stortford Choral Society’s solace and light for Christmas

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On Saturday, the combined forces of Bishop's Stortford Choral Society and Bishop's Stortford Sinfonia sang out loud and clear in Rutter’s glorious Requiem at the Methodist Church.

John Rutter has said about his requiem that “it stands as a clear sign of humanity’s quest for solace and light amidst the darkness and troubles of our age”. Singers, performers and the audience all felt that, to their core.

The haunting solos of cellist Ed Furse, soprano Teresa Pearson and flautist Simon Gilliver gave sombre, reflective moments before the wonderfully light harp strings of Alexander Thomas and oboist Julia White opened us all for relief from anguish and finally gave way to light in the final movement, the Lux Aeterna.

The choral society in concert Picture: David Phillips (23888566)
The choral society in concert Picture: David Phillips (23888566)

For some singers it was particularly special to return to the Requiem. The choral society, then called the Bishop’s Stortford Musical Association choir, last sang the Requiem in November 1987, just two years after it was first performed in the United Methodist Church in Dallas. Theirs was one of the first performances of the work in the UK and John Rutter, who lives in Cambridgeshire, was in the audience and took his own bow at the end of the performance (and signed singers’ programmes!).

Richard Brain, the choral society’s music director, had chosen a lovely mix of Christmas music to complement the Rutter Requiem. The Sinfonia treated us to a spirited Corelli Christmas Concerto. And Nicholas Morton (bass) and the choir sang with both gusto and finesse as the melodies demanded in Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols.

Did you know that Vaughan Williams was one of the keys to our nation’s love of Christmas carols? He dedicated much time to collecting carols from singers around the country, writing them down and publishing them to bring to wider audiences, and the Fantasia was dedicated to Cecil Sharp, another collector of carols.

Nicholas Morton led off with a sonorous The Truth Sent From Above, and he, the choir and orchestra followed with intricate versions of other now well-known carols, including God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen and the Sussex Carol.

What a joyous evening, and with audience and performers making donations, it also raised £545 for the Holy Trinity Winter Night Shelter.

You can catch the choral society singing more carols to raise funds for charities on Saturday (Dec 14) in Market Square and Waitrose.

If you would like to join, there will be an open rehearsal to start the new year on Thursday January 16 at 7.45pm in the United Reformed Church, Water Lane. 2020 is set to be a year to remember, starting with Rachmaninov’s Vespers in March and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in June. For more information go to www.singwithbscs.org.uk.

Bishop’s Stortford Sinfonia’s next concert is on January 25, when it will be playing Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 and Dorothy Howell's Humoresque and Divertissements. For more information go to https://bishopsstortfordsinfonia.com/concerts/

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