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| EWMarch 24th, 2013
The following is a review of the concert held on 23rd March 2013 prepared by Keith Nixon and published in The Sunderland Echo on the 28th March 2013.
“Three cheers for the Bishopwearmouth Choral Society! Their Spring concert proved to be the perfect tonic for a winter-weary audience.
Conductor David Murray chose an all-English programme: two ceremonial works, an Elgar favourite and a Walton blockbuster. It proved to be an inspired choice as the high quality of music-making demonstrated.
The concert began with a performance of Walton’s Crown Imperial. The orchestra delighted in the pomp and circumstance of the march and it proved to be the perfect introduction to the concert.
Elgar’s Serenade for Strings is a lovely work, the very essence of the English countryside. Murray brought out a terrific performance from his players: the slow movement, in particular, was beautifully phrased.
The coronation anthem I Was Glad by Parry is a rousing piece and gave the choir the perfect opportunity to show off their vocal range. The cries of Vivat! never fail to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand to attention. But this was merely an appetiser to the main course of the evening – Belshazzar’s Feast.
Walton’s oratorio, telling the story of the fall of Babylon and its ungodly king, is one of his most popular works but, with its cross-rhythms and unusual harmonies, is very difficult to perform well. This proved to be no problem for Murray’s performers who were equally at home with its reflective, unaccompanied sections and its fortissimo exclamations of delight. The high standard of the choir continues to attract excellent soloists and Matthew Brook was superb as the narrator. His vocal command was tremendous and he had a real sense of drama which brilliantly complemented the choir’s energy.
The final chorus summed up the whole evening: Make a joyful noise! This could not have been more appropriate as it was truly a joyful and uplifting concert.”
| EWDecember 17th, 2012
At our last concert we provided a short questionnaire to everyone in the audience. The aim was to research our audience and the publicity we use for concerts. We are very grateful that many of you were happy to take the time to complete this and thought that you should be made aware of what it told us.
Only three questions were asked : Which post-code have you come from (first part only to protect your confidentiality), How did you hear about the concert, and What age group are you in?
As we would expect the majority of our audience were from Sunderland – or at least five of its post-codes – but others came from Washington, North and South Shields and the prize for the furthest travelled goes to those who came from Stowmarket! Of these most (77%) had heard of the concert from a Society member, with a small number hearing from a friend, our web-site, a previous programme, or from the new banner which was outside the venue. Especial thanks for telling us your age group – 53% of the returns admitted to being over 65 and 17% were under 35.
Once again the Society would like to thank all of those who left a reply for us to consider. We are much obliged.
| EWDecember 10th, 2012
The following is a review by Keith Nixon of the concert held on the 1st December 2012, previously submitted to the Sunderland Echo and reproduced here with his kind permission.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s traditional December concert treated the audience to a pre-Christmas fare of musical delights but included a turkey which was not to everyone’s taste.
Conductor David Murray chose an all-Vaughan Williams programme for thefirst half: The Lark Ascending and An Oxford Elegy. It was a curious choice as the summery music and words sat uncomfortably with an audience wrapped up against the freezing weather. Martin Hughes excelled in the violin solo part of The Lark, a mini-concerto which leaves the soloist highly exposed (literally) at the end.
An Oxford Elegy, set to poems by Matthew Arnold about an academic wishing to lead the life of a gipsy, is very rarely performed – and deservedly so. Andrew Scott narrated it well with wonderful expression, which helped to bring the piece to some sort of life but the choir did not seem comfortable with Vaughan Williams’ pseudo-ethereal wordless mutterings and Arnold’s dull text.
The second half of the concert, however, showed the choir in its true colours. They seemed delighted to trade in their spluttering V W and they found the perfect vehicle in Bob Chilcott’s high-octane arrangement of carols. The Coventry Carol was beautifully sung while the Sussex Carol was full of energy and fun.
Soprano Clare Tunney’s contribution to the concert delighted the audience. Her flawlessly executed phrasing in The Little Road to Bethlehem had everyone spellbound. Clare clearly has a very bright future ahead of her and it was a pity that her performance here was restricted to only three carols.
The concert finished with Chilcott’s take on The Twelve Days of Christmas, in which the ‘five gold rings’ refrain appears in an array of guises. The choir revelled in its humour and sent the audience home in high spirits.
| EWJune 21st, 2012
A review of our Jubilee Concert, prepared by Keith Nixon, was published in the Sunderland Echo on Wednesday 20th June under the headline of ‘Flaming good! The full review appears below by kind permission of the author :
“On the day that the Olympic torch came to Sunderland, the city’s premier choir, the BishopwearmouthChoral Society, gave a gold medal performance in their jubilee concert.
Conductor David Murray chose a programme which was as celebratory as the occasion demanded. His choir (and the audience) got the concert off to a rousing start with two verses from the National Anthem. And for true pomp and circumstance, forget Elgar – it’s Bach and Handel every time.
Bach’s Ein Feste Burg Cantata, based on Luther’s famous chorale, needs a performance of powerand majesty. This proved to be no problem for Murray’s performers and the moving final chorale was beautifully judged both for pace and feeling.
Handel wrote his four anthems for the coronation of George II in 1727 and they were the perfect choice for the evening. The choir excelled in the moving Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened and the joy of singing Zadok the Priest was clear for all to see
However, David Murray kept his best hand for the second half of the concert – a truly outstanding performance of Bach’s Magnificat. This is Bach at his grandest, a piece of sheer splendour and jubilation. The choir was terrific throughout, not only in the opening chorus but especially in the very fast Fecit Potentiam and the final Gloria.
The soloists (Jessica Holmes, Ben Williamson, Joseph Cornwell and Adrian Powter) were excellent. They responded to the sensitivity of the text in all three pieces with controlled passion and fervour. The orchestra played with great feeling: delicate woodwind accompanying the arias and ceremonial trumpets gloriously raising the roof. However, it was the choirwhich really delighted the audience. The warm applause at the end of this memorable concert was richly deserved.”
| EWMarch 13th, 2012
The following review of the 10th March concert was prepared by Vincent Smith for inclusion in the Sunderland Echo but is reproduced here with his kind permission.
“Concerts presented by Bishopwearmouth Choral Society are looked forward to with keen anticipation by performers and audience. Saturday evening at the Minster was no exception. Faure was the featured composer his Requiem being the main work. The first half of the concert includedworks that are miniature gems. A convincing performance of Cesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” began the programme to be followed by “Calme des Nuits” (Saint Saens) in which the choir successfully reflected the atmosphere suggested by the title. An unfamiliar work can also be a pleasant surprise and the inclusion of “Dirait-On” by the American composer Morten Laurindsen, one of whose influences was Faure, fitted nicely into the programme.
Faure songs require a particular sensitivity to text and musical line and textures and the guest soloist for the evening, the young but experienced Baritone, Alexander Robin Baker and his accompanist Eileen Bown were ideal performers in “L’horizon Chimerique” a miniature cycle of four songs and the last ones to be written by Faure. David Murray the Society’s Music Director joined Eileen Bown at the piano to charm the audience with three movements from Faure’s “Dolly Suite.” The first half concluded with “Cantique de Jean Racine.” If the epithet “Simplicity of Genius” applies to any work it is this delightful piece which prepares one for the refined lyrical warmth of the Requiem.
Serenity and contemplation pervade the atmosphere of the “Requiem” rather than the dramatics of a Berlioz or Verdi. There are climaxes however, one in “Hosanna” being one of the loveliest moments in music. It is the positive policy of the Choral Society to encourage young people to get involved and a group of junior members, who would have thoroughly enjoyed singing in the opening item, sang the “Pie Jesu” achieving the difficult task of blending as one. A large well balanced choir, guest soloist and orchestra under the direction of David Murray are to be congratulated for an imaginative well focused programme.”
| EWDecember 11th, 2011
The following review of the 3rd December concert was prepared by Keith Nixon for inclusion in the Sunderland Echo but is reproduced here with his kind permission.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s traditional December concert proved to be the perfect early Christmas present for an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.
Conductor David Murray chose an all-Beethoven programme: a popular overture and two rarely-heard choral pieces. It proved to be an inspired choice. Beethoven may not be so well-known as a composer of choral music but this concert by Murray’s terrific group of singers demonstrated that anything a musical genius puts his hand to will always reward the listener.
The concert began with a performance of the Coriolan Overture. The grandeur and tragic heroism of the piece were movingly conveyed by the orchestra and it proved to be the perfect introduction to the concert.
The Mass in C suffers in comparison with its more well-known counterpart, the Missa Solemnis, but it is a great work in its own right. The unaccompanied opening of the Kyrie, the ecstatic joy of the Gloria and the poignancy of the Miserere arestern tests for any choir – Murray’s singers passed with flying colours.
The soloists (Katherine Moore, Sara Parry, Edward Lee and Martin Robson) were excellent throughout. They displayed a genuine sense of teamwork and clearly enjoyed singing unfamiliar repertoire.
Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, which brought the concert to a rousing conclusion, is a bit of a highbrow hybrid – part sonata, part concerto and part chorus. The testing piano part was superbly played by Eileen Bown with a fantastic display of virtuosity which was simply stunning. The orchestra, especially the woodwind and horns, played with great feeling but it was the choir which really
delighted the audience. The warm applause that followed the exciting finale to the piece was richly deserved.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society continues to be a musical beacon in Sunderland and this concert was a shining example of de-light.
| EWOctober 18th, 2011
We have recently made some updates to the contents of this web-site but not everyone may yet have seen them depending on how their own computer is set up. After the changes it was noticed that while the changes to the text appeared straight away there was a problem with seeing the update to the main photograph on the home page and the removal of some of the logos at the bottom.
If you are fortunate, you should now be able to see the latest picture of the choir – the one showing everyone with David Murray and Eileen Bown in the front row – but if you are still seeing the original version (with only part of the choir) you will need to take a little action to put things right. In ‘computer speak’ the problem is that your computer is retaining some parts of the websites you look at in its cache or temporary files so that it can load them more quickly the next time you visit that site again. There is nothing wrong with your computer – just a matter of how it is set-up.
The simplest way to correct this appears to be to first delete bishopwearmouth.co.uk from your Favourites list (where of course you have it to look at regularly) and then to empty your cache! If you are using Internet Explorer 9 this is done by going into ‘Safety’ at the top right hand side of your browser window and then choosing ‘Delete Browser History’. In that window, ensure that the ‘Temporary Files’ option is checked and press the ‘Delete’ button in that window. After exiting from that, you can relook at www.bishopwearmouth.co.uk and when it come up (showing the new photograph) you can re-add it to your Favourites and all will be right with world – or with the web-site at least.
If you are using earlier versions of Internet Explorer or other browsers there will be a similar procedure for emptying your temporary internet files – which is a good idea to do regularly in any case to try and avoid this sort of glitch – if this is actually a problem for you. All of the information you can see will still be correct – this problem only seems to affect some of the visual aspects.
Our apologies for this difficulty which is not avoidable from our end. Our web-designers have done their bit to update things but unfortunately this does not mean that your computers will automatically pick up on them, depending on how they are set up.
| EWJune 27th, 2011
The review by Keith Nixon, below, of the 18th June 2011 concert appeared in The Sunderland Echo on Tuesday 21st June in an edited format.
Thunderous applause and cheers greeted the performers at the end of the concert in Sunderland. No – this is not a review of Kings of Leon. The performers were our very own Bishopwearmouth Choral Society who let their hairdown in spectacular style on Saturday night.
The arrangements which conductor David Murray made of popular American and gospel songs have been lying in his attic since the 1970s. Thankfully, he dusted them down so that his choir could breathe new life into them and show off what a fine group of singers they are. They demonstrated that they are equally at home singing the songs of Randy Newman and Carole King as they are in their more conventional repertoire.
Jazz singer Ruth Lambert wowed the audience with four amazing songs, admirably accompanied by James Birkett and Tony Abel. Her rendition of Jimmy Davis’s ‘Lover Man’ was simply sensational.
JamesBirkett is a superb guitarist and it was a delight to hear him perform with his 16 year-old pupil Bradley Johnston. The four pieces which they played were spellbinding, particularly Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’ with its contrast betweentraditional and modern. Young Bradley has a very bright future ahead of him.
It was great to have the Bishopwearmouth Young Singers at the party. Eileen Bown can be very proud of her young performers who sang their hearts out. Their performance of David Fanshawe’s ‘Lord’s Prayer’ was very moving but they showed that they could swing with the best of them with the gospel song ‘Feel Good’.
And feeling good was what the whole concert was about. The applause after the encore of ‘Honey, Honey’ at the end of the evening must have been music to David Murray’s ears. The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society is a jewel of a choir and this concert was diamond-studded.
| EWMarch 29th, 2011
Did you miss our recent Hayden concert on the 26th March? This is what the reviewer, Vince Smith, had to say about it :
Bishopwearmouth Choral Society presented two Haydn Masses at its recent concert; the works being the St Nicholas Mass and Maria Theresa Mass. Haydn was one of music’s most amiable personalities and composing Religious Music was not a reason for restraint. A warm sunny nature pervades most of his music whatever the media. The programme notes in an attractive printed programme included one of Haydn’s most frequently quoted thoughts that “whenever he thought about God it made him cheerful.”
It is however for the performers to realise a composer’s intentions and that was certainly the case as the Minster was filled with some glorious sounds. Climaxes were thrilling without being forced and the more sensitive moments very moving. One of the many delights of Haydn’s Choral Music is the way in which he uses the soloists. Not so much self contained arias but interaction with each other and the choir thus creating a wide variety of choral textures. The guest soloists, Jessica Holmes (soprano), Sally Burchell (Mezzo), Mark Chaundry (tenor) and James Oldfield (Bass Baritone) proved to be an excellent choice. The St. Nicholas Mass begins with a quartet of soloists and it was evident immediately that balance and blend were to be successful components of the performances.
Some of the region’s finest orchestral players provided the orchestra and under the expert and scholarly direction of David Murray the choral textures were underpinned with skill and sensitivity. It was the string section of the orchestra that began the evening with a performance of a Mozart Divertimento that beautifully captured the elegant charm that is so often a feature of his music. An appreciative audience were treated to an evening of music making of the highest quality.
| EWDecember 14th, 2010
The concert on Saturday the 4th December was reviewed by Keith Nixon and he has kindly agreed for us to publish it here.
“Thank goodness for the Bishopwearmouth Choral Society! For two glorious hours on Saturday the winter-weary audience was treated to such outstanding music-making that all thoughts of ice and snow were banished. And what an ambitious programme – two works written in response to personal losses, a Brahms rarity and one of the great choral masterpieces by Dvořák.
Nänie is a lovely piece written in memory of Brahms’ friend, Anselm Feuerbach. This is Brahms at his most contemplative and introspective. Apart from the German Requiem, Brahms’ choral-orchestral works are not well known; considering the beauty of the BCS’s performance of Nänie, this is a great shame.
The composing of his Stabat Mater was Dvořák’s reaction to the death of three of his children in rapid and tragic succession. The first four sections are dark, displaying the composer’s sense of emptiness. There is a transformation to the light with the fifth movement, which continues to the work’s conclusion. It is as if Dvořák were praying through this music, and he does achieve inner peace by the end.
The high standard of the choir continues to attract excellent soloists and the four performers (Katherine Moore, Sara-Louisa Parry, Christopher Turner and the remarkable Njabulo Madlala) all displayed the sensitivity of the text with controlled passion. The orchestra, too, played with great feeling. But it was the choir which really delighted the audience. Conductor David Murray must be thrilled with a group of singers that, in a challenging work, was able to convey tenderness as well as the pain that the composer clearly felt as he was writing the piece. The warm applause that followed the final movement was richly deserved.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society continues to go from strength to strength and proved to be the perfect cure for the wintertime blues.”