The following review of the concert on Saturday 21st June 2014 was prepared by Keith Nixon for publication in the Sunderland Echo.
“An enthusiastic and appreciative audience sacrificed the chance to watch World Cup goals on TV to attend the Bishopwearmouth Choral Society’s summer concert. They were richly rewarded with a performance of striking quality.
The society’s charismatic director, David Murray, chose a programme of music from four different centuries. The concert began with Haydn’s ‘Joke’ string quartet, delightfully played by the Edinburgh Quartet. Murray then showed off his dazzling pianistic skills in accompanying Vaughan Williams’ ‘Songs of Travel’. This was beautifully sung by Luke Williams – ‘Bright is the Ring of Words’ was particularly moving.
So far the BCS had had a pretty easy time of it but all that was to change dramatically! ‘Who Are These Angels?’ by James MacMillan was sensational. Approachable without being apologetic, MacMillan’s work can both delight and challenge. The piece contained wonderful surprises, like the string quartet’s seagull effects at the end. The choir responded to the challenge magnificently with the basses in especially good form. More MacMillan in the future, please!
The second half was devoted to Purcell’s operatic masterpiece, ‘Dido and Aeneas’. Murray, directing from the harpsichord, allowed soloists and players the freedom to really express themselves. Sally Burchell was magnificent as Dido, the betrayed Queen of Carthage. Her lament was achingly moving and proved to be the crowning climax of a powerful performance.
Elen Lloyd Roberts as Belinda was the perfect foil to Burchell’s Dido while Sarah Ryan was the sexiest Sorceress I have ever seen. Luke Williams as Aeneas was in fine voice, every inch the hapless lover torn between war and his queen. The choir clearly loved every minute of it. ‘Harm’s our delight and mischief all our skill’ was malevolence personified and the boozy sailors of Act III would not have looked (and sounded) out of place in the Museum Vaults.
The Bishopwearmouth Choral Society continues to go from strength to strength and, under David Murray’s direction, has once again proved to be the amateur choir with professional standards.”