Two years ago, I enjoyed a memorable Mendelssohn’s Elijah, exquisitely performed by Angmering Chorale, the Sinfonia of Arun and four professional soloists in Arundel Cathedral. Live concerts have been at a premium since then so it was a delight to return there last Saturday, with many similarly deprived others, to see how the Choir had fared since their last major performance. Rehearsals were severely curtailed by the pandemic and, only in early September 2021, was it possible for George Jones and his talented singers to meet once again as a full ensemble.
To celebrate this renaissance, they chose to perform Requiems by Bob Chilcott and John Rutter both of whom are living, productive English composers. Neither work is of Elijah’s grand scale meaning that only two soloists and a small group of musicians were sufficient.
Chilcott’s Requiem featured soprano, Harriet Eyley and tenor, Guy Withers combined with a wind quartet of flute, oboe, clarinet and horn, the Chorale’s own accompanist, Alison Manton at the piano and timpanist, Tom Marsden. From the opening Introit & Kyrie, we knew we were to hear something special. The choir of about seventy singers quickly dispelled any fears about voices lost after such a lengthy period of inaction. Each of the seven sections showed quality and beauty of sound from singers and instrumentalists alike. Highlights were the men’s chorus which began the Offertorio and Harriet’s soprano in Pie Jesu which made for a pleasing alternative to the, more widely known, staple versions by Fauré et alia. Similarly refreshing was Thou Knowest Lord which, unlike the other movements, used English text rather than the customary Latin.
In Rutter’s Requiem the horn and clarinet players gave way to harp and cello. Although it had been present from the start, it was intriguing to watch harpist, Anna Wynne, lovingly removing all the thermal and other protective layers from her magnificent golden instrument.
In seven sections too, this used English text in the Lord is My Shepherd and the, spiritual-like, Out of the Deep which featured an exquisite cello obligato played by Siriol Hugh-Jones. Harriet delighted us with her beautiful rendition of Pie Jesu and a glorious carillon effect was achieved by piano, chorus and harp in the Sanctus.
All vocal and instrumental soloists excelled throughout the evening and the Choir, once again, displayed the fine quality singing we have come to expect. George Jones directed all this with his customary professionalism and aplomb. Both of the requiems conclude with Lux Aeterna which means Eternal Light and, courtesy of Angmering Chorale, we are assured that, in these troubled times, such light continues to shine!
Special mention also to the magnificent programme which, in addition to comprehensive information about the concert and performers, featured other splendid interval reading including a most interesting article about the artist, John Constable and his connections with Arundel.
All being well, the Chorale will be performing its usual three concerts during 2022 when they will be presenting a Festival of British Composers to coincide with Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
REVIEW BY Jim Hurdwell