Councillor Sue Appleton, Town Mayor,
David Johnson, Musical Director, Jennifer Pike, winner of
BBC Young Musician of the Year 2002, Sir Bernard Lovell, President,
Congleton Choral Society.
Young and talented
13 year-old Jennifer Pike brought the audience to their feet
at the town hall on Saturday May 3rd when she performed
Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto at Congleton Choral
Society's Spring Concert.
has an exceptional gift and stunned judges at last year's
BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition when she won the
top prize at the age at the age of just twelve.
wonderful to see so many young faces in the audience that
packed Congleton's Town Hall and Jennifer was certainly an
inspiration to young and old alike. Tickets were sold out
well before the event.
performance began with Boyce's Symphony No 5 in D Major. The
Cantilena Orchestra played this with style and panache. It's
a very high trumpet part, and all their notes were played
with precision and accuracy.
followed by Bob Chilcott's Canticles of Light. This is quite
a modern and difficult piece, which the choir carried off
with style and aplomb. The upper Plainsong was magical and
gave one an eerie feeling of being in a dark Cathedral
with the choir singing the Evening Hymns in the distance.
Violin Concerto was of course the highlight of the evening
and the reason the Town Hall was full," said David Johnson
Musical Director of the Choral Society. "Jennifer Pike gave
an absolutely flawless performance of this piece. Her technical
mastery of the violin was awe-inspiring and had the audience
-and choir - spellbound."
The Cantilena Orchestra, under Musical Director
David Johnson, provided just the perfect accompaniment to
Jennifer's virtuoso playing, and produced a performance of
the concerto that was worthy of any professional CD label.
"What a formidable talent!," said David, "To produce a performance
like this at the age of 13 years - what will she be like in
5 years time."
Jennifer played a short piece by Paganini as an
encore. The Hall was silent as the audience were totally mesmerised
by this young musician performing musical aerobatics on her
17th Century Venetian violin. The standing ovation at end
of this piece was just reward for a performance of pure artistry.
wonderful. To be there to hear such variety of expression,
to feel the richness of tones from the instrument was a privilege
indeed," Ken Ratcliff, Secretary of the Choral Society said,
"It was an arresting experience to hear the instrument responding
so warmly, so vibrantly to her bow. Lyricism, virtuosity,
tenderness, passion, strength, impetuosity, all seemed to
flow from them (Jennifer and violin) so freely and wonderfully."
interval the Choral Society gave a powerful performance of
Mozart's Requiem together with four of the finest soloists
from the Royal Northern College of Music: Elizabeth Donovan
(Soprano) Sarah Lilley (Mezzo-soprano) Adam McGee (Tenor)
and Philip Shakesby (Baritone). Individually their
performances where quite superb but when they sang together
their voices blended and balanced beautifully. There is no
doubt that all these soloists have a great future.
Director was delighted with the whole performance: "The Choir
were magnificent - at one moment propelling the audience out
of their seats with the fearful 'Dies Irae' and then moving
them to tears with the last movement Mozart completed before
he died - the 'Lacrimosa'," said David Johnson, "This was
Congleton Choral Society at its best - sharp, attentive, tuneful,and
terrifying!! They gave one of the best performances of this
majestic work that I can remember, and one that will stand
out in the Choral Society's annuls."
are already being made to bring Jennifer Pike back to Congleton
as soon as her reign as BBC Young Musician is over (and when
her diary might be alittle less hectic). She will, without
a doubt, have an very warm welcome from another capacity
audience when she does.
Music lover Baroness Jane Walmsley
took time out of her hectic schedule on Saturday 12th
October to join in the fun at Congleton Choral Society's Autumn
Concert. She was one of
the special guest soloists who joined the Cantilena Orchestra
as they played Mozart's "Toy Symphony".
Along with former Town Mayor, Margaret Williamson,
who played "cookoo" with gusto and present Town Mayor, Sue
Appleton, who played "nightingale" magnificently, the Baroness
was obviously thoroughly enjoying her part on the triangle.
"Live music is always special but actually
taking part was even more enjoyable," Baroness Walmsley said
afterwards, "That's why I love singing with the Parliament
She went on to say "Saturday's performance
by Congleton Choral Society was wonderful and is was so good
to hear the young soloists and musicians singing and playing
The soloists, who joined the choir in the
performance of Mozart's Solemn Vespers of the Confessor and
Haydn's Maria Theresa Mass, are all graduates of the Royal
Northern College of Music in Manchester. They are all at
the start of what promise to be very successful singing careers,
judging from their magnificent voices. Soprano soloist Elizabeth
Donovan returned after her captivating performance in St John
Passion at the Choral Society's Spring Concert. The quality
of her voice is such that she is representing Wales in next
year's BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
She was joined by Karina Lucas (Alto),
Alexander Grove (Tenor) and Anthony Cleverton (Bass/Baritone)
all highly respected soloists who are in great demand both
regionally and nationally.
The Choral Society's Musical Director David
Johnson said "The Toy Symphony will remain in my memory for
ever! - it was great to see everyone, particularly our politicians,
enjoying themselves. The Solumn Vespers by Mozart went very,
very well but the Haydn was brilliant. I was very pleased."
A member of the choir
Rosemary Millican said "When it comes to the night of the
concert and the choir joins with soloists and the wonderful
Cantilena Orchestra in front of a really enthusiastic audience,
it is really wonderful and makes all the practice worthwhile."
The Choral Society have already begun rehearsals
for their Christmas concert "Carols at Astbury" which promises
to be a sell out. "If you would like to join with the choir
to sing at Christmas we would love to increase our numbers,"
said David Johnson, "We are holding open evenings on Monday
October 21st and November 4th 7.45 -
9.45 at Trinity Church, Waggs St. We would love all those
who love to sing to come and join their voice with ours."
Congleton Choral Society's Spring concert was hailed as a
triumph by an enthusiastic audience on the night of April
27th. With the Cantilena Orchestra and five wonderful soloists
they performed St John Passion by JS Bach. It was a performance
to match the very best.
Simon Wall (Tenor) took the part of the
Evangelist. It is a very demanding role for any tenor, but
Simon's pure clear voice soared to the heavens and did not
falter throughout the 2 ½ hour performance. Musical Director,
David Johnson said " I was so pleased he was able to sing
with us." This young man who has just been awarded a scholarship
to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, has a tremendous
singing career ahead of him.
James McVicar, who has performed regularly
with the Choral Society, brought warmth and compassion to
the role of Jesus. "It was a very moving performance," he
said, "I had tears in my eyes."
They were joined by three other top soloists:
Elizabeth Donovan who is an outstanding soprano; Sarah Lilley,
a highly talented mezzo-soprano with a voice like velvet,
and Stephen Wells, a popular bass soloist.
The Cantilena Orchestra, led by Jenny Stokes,
are a group of young and talented musicians who come together
from across the North West to play with Congleton Choral Society.
On this occasion they were joined by Simon Mercer on the organ
and Bjorn Bantok , cellist, who played the very challenging
The Choir have received many accolades for
their past concerts and this, once again, was a brilliant
performance. David Johnson, Musical Director, said "It was
a wonderful evening and a wonderful atmosphere. The choir
sang the St John Passion in 1980 and again in 1989 but this
was the best performance: best soloists, best orchestra and
the best choir. They were absolutely wonderful."
Members of the audience praised the concert
saying: "This is the first time we have been to a Congleton
Choral Society concert but we are going to make a point of
coming to every concert from now on. More people should realise
just how good the quality of music is." One young boy in the
audience said "It was better than the record my Dad has and
that has a famous choir singing on it."
To be able to experience such a wealth of
talent anywhere would be a privilege. To be able to enjoy
it in our own Town Hall is remarkable. But questions were
being raised about the viability of the Choral Society's Concerts
as, despite the exceptional quality of the music, the Hall
was far from full. "It is very sad that more people do not
come and experience what the Choral Society has to offer right
here in Congleton," said Rosemary Millican, choir member.
M embers of Congleton Choral Society sang
in Westminster with the Parliament Choir recently at the invitation
of Baroness Walmsley.
Joining a massed choir of invited voices
from across the country they performed Handel's MESSIAH in
Westminster Central Hall to an audience of over 1000. More
than 200 singers were drawn from choirs as far afield as Scotland
and the West Country. The event was sponsored by British
It meant an early start
for Congleton's singers who left home before 6.30am to make
the 200-mile trip by train. In between the two rehearsal sessions,
Baroness Walmsley gave them a guided tour of the Palace of
Westminster and there was time too for a little sightseeing.
The evening performance
ended at 9.30 leaving only 30 minutes for a dramatic dash
to Euston Station to catch the last train back to Congleton.
With only seconds remaining, the final members of the party
arrived on the platform.
Gerald Foster Clark, who
made all the arrangements for the trip said, "It was a wonderful
day, a great experience, and a marvelous to be part of such
an event. We are hoping that we can arrange something similar
Rosemary Millican, a choir
member said, "It was a very special day, singing with people
from all over the country and sitting alongside MPs, Lords
and Baronesses in the choir. It was a real privilege to be
concerts, including Fanshawe's African Sanctus, Bach:
B Minor Mass, Carl Orff: Carmina Burana, Bernstein: Chichester
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