Our thanks to Keith Nixon for allowing the publication of this crit of our concert on December 5th 2015, prepared for publication in the Sunderland Echo :
An enthusiastic audience braved the wrath of Storm Desmond to attend the Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s traditional December concert. They were richly rewarded with a suitably storming performance.
The concert began with Songs from A Shropshire Lad by George Butterworth in an orchestration of delicate colouring by Lance Baker. Baritone Alexander Robin Baker proved to be the ideal soloist, demonstrating wonderful refinement and care with Houseman’s bittersweet text. Baker’s beauty of tone in the opening phrase of Loveliest of Trees set the standard, culminating in a spellbinding rendition of Is My Team Ploughing.
So far the choral society had had a very relaxing time of it but all that was to change in dramatic fashion. The Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams, based on poems by Walt Whitman, is a great choral masterpiece and a huge challenge for any choir. With inspirational conductor David Murray in charge, the BCS responded magnificently with a performance of great nobility and elation. The opening chorus, Behold the Sea was spine-tinglingly good and in the third movement, The Waves, you could almost feel the breakers’ sting on the face and taste the salty bite of the spray.
Alexander Robin Baker and soprano Sally Harrison were both in excellent voice with delightful clarity of diction and sensitive response to Whitman’s poetry. The orchestra, hand-picked by Murray, showed great control in the faster sections and consummate beauty in the quieter moments – the accompaniment to O Vast Rondure was particularly moving.
The chorus sounded as fresh at the end of the symphony as they were at the beginning – no mean achievement in such a demanding and challenging work.The epilogue, O Farther, Farther Sail was heart-achingly tender and the warm applause that followed was richly deserved.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society continues to go from strength to strength, having provided the audience with a rewarding and truly moving experience – a triumph for all concerned.