The following is a review by Keith Nixon of the concert held on the 7th December 2013, and reproduced here with his kind permission.
“An enthusiastic and appreciative audience braved the freezing cold weather to attend the Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s traditional December concert. They were richly rewarded with a heart-warming performance.
The society’s inspirational director, David Murray, took the opportunity to display his multi-faceted musical talents – accompanist, solo pianist and conductor – and he excelled at all three.
The concert began with four songs from Schumann’s first Liederkreis cycle, movingly sung by Richard Gooding. Murray then showed off his dazzling pianistic skills with three of Brahms’ late piano pieces before donning his accompanist’s hat again to perform (with clarinettist Jennifer Murray) four Christmas songs by Cornelius. Jessica Holmes’ sweet-voiced soprano was ideally suited to these delightful pieces.
So far the choral society had had a pretty easy time of it but all that was to change in the second half! The German Requiem by Brahms is one of the great choral masterpieces and a tall order for any choir. Unlike traditional settings of the requiem mass, the composer chose to set texts from the Lutheran Bible in vernacular German. Murray opted to conduct the version with piano duet accompaniment, magnificently played by Eileen Bown and Venera Bojkova.
The particular challenge to the choir in this performance, therefore, was that they could not hide behind the usual rich orchestration. They responded magnificently with first rate warmth, clarity and intonation. In fact, they sometimes grabbed the listener by the throat, practically spitting out “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras”. In contrast, their lovely rendition of the sublime “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” was intensely moving. The soloists (Gooding and Holmes) responded to the sensitivity of the text with fervour.
However, it was the choir that delighted the audience the most. David Murray must be thrilled to have a group of singers that, in such a challenging work, was able to convey wonderfully the angst as well as the solace that Brahms brought to the music. The warm applause that followed the final movement was thoroughly deserved.”