A truly inspiring place for magnificent works

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Sussex Chorus, 
St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton, Saturday, May 24

Under their recently appointed Musical Director Alan Vincent, Sussex Chorus chose a popular summer programme of music for their contribution to the Brighton Festival.

St Bartholomew’s Church has “the distinction of being (at 135ft) the tallest parish church in Britain, if not in Europe, and is now a Grade 1 listed building”. It can be seen from most areas in Brighton and attracts a steady stream of wonderful concerts.

It is a truly inspiring place to sing in but not necessarily the easiest because of the acoustics.

Sussex Chorus acquitted themselves very well, particularly in Mozart’s beautiful motet Ave Verum Corpus (1791), which sounded most ethereal and exquisitely phrased. They were sensitively supported by Andrew Sherwood’s orchestra: The Musicians of All Saints.

The concert opened auspiciously with Handel’s justly famous anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ (1727), which has been performed at every Coronation since that of George II. The orchestra began with the tremendous build-up to the choir’s thrilling blaze of glory, which they maintained throughout this magnificent work.

After the Mozart, the choir had a well-deserved rest while the orchestra performed Schubert’s well-known and enigmatic Unfinished Symphony (1822). It is always a pleasure to re-visit such works as these, as there are often fresh details to be savoured, like meeting an old friend. The orchestra did themselves proud.

The second half of the programme was dedicated to a fine performance of Haydn’s Nelson Mass (1798), a magisterial choral work arguably second only to his ground-breaking ‘Creation’. The connection with Lord Nelson is tenuous, but its subtitle suggests it was written in times of danger and distress.

It consists of 11 tuneful contrasting sections, (the Credo split into three separate parts) ranging in emotion from the dramatic opening of Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy), the more prayerful Qui Tollis, Sanctus and Agnus Dei to the exultant Gloria, Et Resurrexit and even the final Dona Nobis Pacem

Four fine soloists joined the choir, both individually and in groups. Soprano Elaine Tate’s radiant voice rang out in several sections, and Mezzo Soprano Susan Legg, Tenor Mark Curtis and Bass Jack Holton also contributed impressively throughout

Altogether a most enjoyable and worthwhile concert.