Philharmonic 
capture Carl Orff

Carmina Burana Hastings Philharmonic Choir at St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings. Photo by Peter Mould SUS-150421-101903001
Carmina Burana Hastings Philharmonic Choir at St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings. Photo by Peter Mould SUS-150421-101903001
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A performance of Carmina Burana should be exciting – and this certainly was. Carl Orff’s music vividly dramatises a selections of 12th & 13th Century poems from this most secular collection found in a Bavarian monastery.

CARMINA BURANA Hastings Philharmonic Choir

St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings 11th April 2015

A performance of Carmina Burana should be exciting – and this certainly was. Carl Orff’s music vividly dramatises a selections of 12th & 13th Century poems from this most secular collection found in a Bavarian monastery.

The piece presents a number of challenges, not least of which is the non-English text which, in places, is to be sung at breakneck speed. In addition there are extremes of dynamics and changes of tempo, as well as sudden cut-offs and staccato delivery. All this demands absolute concentration and commitment from every performer and complete confidence in the gestures of the conductor.

Unsurprisingly in a work such as this there was the odd moment where the ensemble was not entirely together but these were few. Overall the sound was confident and expressive. There were moments of sheer exuberance as well as utter pathos, a real triumph of a performance from a committed and hardworking choir.

The members of the percussion ensemble deserve great praise. Their precision performances were superb and added a wealth of colour and drama to the occasion.

Vocal soloists Ricardo Panela (baritone), Tom Morss (tenor) and Celena Bridge (soprano) gave committed performances. The sad song of the roasted swan brought additional theatre by the tenor soloist’s unexpected movement around the audience. The small children’s chorus also made a fine contribution.

The two pianists displayed their skilful musicianship throughout. The piece is a test of stamina and concentration, not least because prior to this they had opened the evening with a well delivered performance of Rachmaninoff’s Suite for Two Pianos.

Marcio da Silva certainly brings the best out of the choir. His exuberant conducting style cannot fail to enthuse and carry everyone with him. It was apparent that he knows this work very well as his score sat unmoved from the opening page on the music stand at floor level, way out of reach from his raised position! As a child he took part in performances of this work, supported by a family member who was present in tonight’s audience, having not previously seen him in action in the UK as a conductor. I must confess there were a couple of times when I feared for his safety as I watched the top of the podium bounce vigorously. I’m glad to report that he survived unscathed!

We are fortunate to have music of this quality presented to us here in Hastings. The stunning setting of St Mary-in-the-Castle certainly enhanced the music. It was interesting that unusually (in my experience) the front curtain was pulled back tonight, revealing the original decorated panels and texts including the 10 commandments as well as the central stained glass window. In this deconsecrated church we were reminded once again of how the sacred and the secular can combine. Perhaps we are wrong to draw such a clear-cut distinction between the two when beauty and vitality is to be found in the whole of life.

I have one gripe. Why were so many of the audience so late and why were they admitted to the auditorium continuously during the first few minutes of the piano piece? I felt this was very disrespectful to the performers. Next time they should be made to wait until a suitable break in proceedings!

Moaning complete! I would thoroughly recommend any future performances by Hastings Philharmonic Choir. A varied programme is to be presented on 4th July. Details at www.hastingsphilchoir.org.uk