Saturday the 20th November was Billingshurst Choral Society’s (BCS) biggest night since lockdown began. The 60 strong mixed voice choir performed its first concert after just nine weeks of rehearsals under the guiding hands and voice of Márcio da Silva, the Society’s new Music Director.
Although the all too familiar COVID restrictions had prevented the choir from rehearsing together for nearly two years, the rapturous applause from the 130 strong audience was a clear vote, showing that the choir had not lost its touch.
Dating back to 1200 AD, St. Mary’s Church, Billingshurst was the historic venue chosen for this sell-out concert which featured an exciting programme. The concert continued BCS’s strong tradition of both heritage and innovation, as Fauré’s Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine were paired with a little-known work by the Latvian Composer, Imant Raminsh. The stunning acoustics in the church gave a crystal-clear resonance, carrying the amazing harmonies from the choir straight to the listening ears of the audience.
Raminsh’s Missa Brevis in C Minor was the opening work of the concert, with the haunting modal tonality of the Kyrie setting an almost mystical atmosphere. This was soon to be shattered by the energetic Gloria; an extremely demanding piece in 6/8 time moving to 9/8 with a syncopated rhythm and numerous key changes. Special guest soprano, Helen May, sang the solos throughout the work with clarity and expression, combining beautifully with renowned organist, Sebastian Gillot.
The programme followed a French theme in the second half with the choir giving a beautiful rendition of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, followed by the much-loved Requiem. This was an extremely powerful, well-balanced and beautifully sonorous performance from BCS. The ‘Pie Jesu’ highlighted the stunningly beautiful voice of Helen May, who blended brilliantly with the choir throughout this glorious work.
A special treat was the opportunity to hear the magnificent voice of Márcio da Silva, the choir’s new Music Director, singing the two baritone solos. These pieces showcased the confident rounded tones of this professional who moved effortlessly from his solo performances to conducting the choir.
The BCS sopranos sang the In Paradisum with soaring clarity, the last movement which brought the proceedings to a close. A touching and poignant finale.
The choir’s next major concert will take place on Saturday the 9th of April 2022, when the audience can be assured of a moving performance of Handel’s Messiah. If you would like to join the choir, rehearsals will begin in early January. Please check out the BCS website (www.billingshurstchoralsociety.org.uk) or telephone 07989 412997 for further details.
Review by Anthony Gilsenan