The audience had been promised
a feast of Christmas music and the packed Town Hall was treated
to a musical banquet. Even though seasonal bugs had laid low
a number of choir members, it is perhaps a testament to the
quality of Congleton Choral society and the dedication of
its Musical Director, David Johnson, that they were still
able to put on such a polished performance at their Christmas
Mozart's "Sparrow Mass"
made a dramatic opening to the concert. There were accomplished
solo performances from Kathy Jones (soprano), Mary Murphy
(Alto), Stuart Keene (tenor) and James McVicar (Bass). This
was followed by a varied programme of festive music with plenty
of opportunity for the audience to enter into the spirit of
the occasion, joining in with many of the traditional carols.
The Cantilena Orchestra never
fails to excite and delight with their youthful but highly
professional talent. This occasion was no exception. They
brought us a breathtaking performance of Ralph Vaughn-Williams'
Fantasia on Greensleeves, featuring harpist Lauren Scott and
flautist Carolyn Jones.
Highlights of the second half
were Cornelius' The Three Kings in which James McVicar set
many a spine tingling against a beautiful background chorale
sung by the choir. The lovely Lord's Prayer by Fanshawe was
followed by a romping version of Jingle Bells and all too
soon we were approaching the close of the evening.
The concert was entitled "Joy
to the World" and it was a joy to the ear. We are privileged
to have the opportunity to enjoy such musical talent right
on our doorstep.
To celebrate thirty years (1971-2001) presenting musical entertainment
of an extremely high quality, the Choir presented a Gala Concert,
with the second half presented after the manner of the Last
Night of the Proms. On this auspicious occasion presentations
were made to the founder of the Society, Mrs Gladys Worthington,
now Honorary Vice President of the Congleton Choral Society.
David Fanshawe's 'African Sanctus' is a setting of the Latin
Mass which is a carefully balanced synthesis of orchestra
voice and recordings. Performed all over the world, every
weekend sees a production of this work somewhere. On the 19th
May 2001 it was Congleton's turn to experience this dramatic
and individual musical work. David Fanshawe himself joined
the Choir for the afternoon rehearsal and performance. Prior
to the performance he explained his thinking behind the creation
of the work and illustrated the meaning behind particular
sections of the Sanctus.
The Town Hall had been decked
out with African artifacts and tropical plants to enhance
the atmosphere of the occasion. The Choir was accompanied
by Andy Donaldson on piano and by the shakers, scrapers, cymbals
and drums of Percussion Royale.
This brilliantly imaginative
interpretation of the Latin Mass incorporates recordings of
Islamic and Traditional African religious music made during
the cross-shaped pilgrimage through Africa in the late 1960s
and early '70s by the British composer David Fanshawe. First
performed in 1972 under the title "African Revelations",
the work was subsequently revised by the composer after a
further visit to Africa in 1973. He decided to rename it African
Sanctus, in English, Holy Africa. It took eight years from
its conception before the full score was finally composed.
Fanshawe's own web site and the African
Sanctus site for more information.
This piece is a challenge to any choir. It was written by
Bach in a Heavenly Music style without any thought that it
might be sung by human voices.
The Choir was fortunate to have
as soloists for the evening Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), who
made a very welcome return to Congleton prior to a tour of
London and Europe with the Kings Consort; also returning was
alto soloist Marjorie Seddon, who is in much demand throughout
the North-West. The tenor soloist was Benjamin Layfield, who
has an impressive CV, including a performance at the Proms;
and finally, but again most welcome, was the return of Jeremy
Hagan (Bass) whose repertoire ranges from opera to oratorio.
Joined by singers from other
choirs in the surrounding area, the choir was augmented to
over 80 voices. Once again, the Cantilena Orchestra accompanied
the choir, led by Jane Nossek.
The Choral Society was joined by the Choir of Boston, Lincolnshire,
to perform these two challenging and dramatic works. In a
"return match", Congleton Choral Society journeyed
to Boston to perform the concert with them again at Boston
Stump, the well known landmark church in the centre of Boston.