South West Festival Chorus: Pump Room, Bath
South West Festival Chorus
The Pump Room, Bath
We learned a lot about Elgar, not only from the music, which is sadly – and surprisingly – unfamiliar, but from Jason Thornton's fascinating comments about Elgar the man and his wife Alice, highly talented and accomplished in her own right.
We also heard a young Portuguese mezzo, Catia Moreso, whose performance of the song cycle Sea Pictures was a revelation. The voice has a burnished bronze lower register, power and resonance higher up and her emotional understanding of these wonderful songs had an immediacy and impact which enraptured the audience. This is a serious talent and we shall hope to hear her again. Gerry Hoddinott's piano accompaniment was immaculate, supportive yet evocative too.
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Why this music is so seldom performed remains a mystery. It has a range of harmony and melodic invention which is quite captivating, ranging from joy to melancholy and Go Song of Mine, for example, with its high soprano line, came over with sparkling vivacity. The Snow, with violinists Katy Rowe and Stephanie Niemira, is slower, gracefully legato, the dynamics carefully observed and a warmly quiet finale. Love, to words by Arthur Maquarie, lilting and rhythmic, sounds surprisingly modern and contemporary, the harmonic progression urgent and striking.
Gavin Carr, having augmented the tenor section in the first half, under Jason Thornton , took over the baton for the Bavarian songs, to words by Alice Elgar. They have a tunefulness and a tranquillity, especially in Aspiration, finishing with a splendidly extrovert song, The Marksmen, in triple time, which rounded the evening off in lively style.
The choir was in fine voice – though the tenor section might welcome augmentation – and they clearly enjoyed exploring this relatively unknown music. So did Jason, Gavin and, not least, a thoroughly appreciative audience.
Peter Lloyd Williams