At first glance Bexhill Choral Society’s concert last Saturday at St Augustine’s Church looked like a fairly conventional set of religious settings. In the event it was anything but, and all the more interesting for being so.
Cesar Franck’s surprisingly mystical opening for his setting of Psalm 150 flowered into a broad and flowing melody which set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Caccini’s Ave Maria was the first of the challenges for it is not by Caccini and its repetition of the two words hardly make it a setting of the prayer. Thankfully Kristy Swift and Judith Buckle brought sensitivity and great beauty of line to the piece.
Puccini’s Requiem – this time only the opening verse rather than a complete mass – brought some pleasantly reflective singing from the choir while Albinoni’s Adagio – another familiar piece that has nothing to do with the named composer! – allowed the orchestra to shine by themselves.
Schubert’s 1828 setting of Tantum Ergo is indulgently romantic, allowing the soloists to enjoy the voluptuous writing for them as well as demonstrating their coloratura.
After the interval we heard just one work – Rossini’s Stabat Mater. It is doubtful if anybody would guess the text if all they had was the score. Rossini regularly, almost deliberately, seems to set against the emotional reality of the text, yet when he gets to the final sections, which speak of Paradise and salvation, the score becomes darker and more tense, as if in direct conflict with the theology being expressed.
None of this seemed to worry the singers who clearly enjoyed the setting, with tenor Ian Parrett making much of his march solo and Peter Grevatt finding depth in Pro peccatis suae gentis before giving way to its overtly lyrical conclusion.
For most of the evening the choir were on good form, though the opening of the unaccompanied Eia, mater, fons amoris was poorly focussed. Happily Quando corpus morietur brought them comfortably together before the conclusion.
The Sussex Concert Orchestra gave sound support under Kenneth Roberts, with noteworthy contributions from horn Trevor Denyer and Nigel Howard at the organ.
The next concert is the annual Carols And Christmas Music on Saturday December 8. By Brian Hick.