Burgess Hill Choral Society serve up a tasty musical feast
and live on Freeview channel 276
Review by Phil Dennett
At the tail-end of a year of war and woe in the world, Burgess Hill Choral Soicety and musicians of the South Downs Sinfonia under Richard Sutcliffe combined well with the singers to kindle the spirit of Christmas. And what better pieces to warm the heart than the joy of the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols, Rutter’s technically challenging but uplifting Magnificat and the charming four preludes of Hely-Hutchinson’s tune-laden Carol Symphony?
The choir extracted every note of charm from the melodies of the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, the busy strings and brass cooking a warm winter stew. Strong, clear and suitably darker-toned baritone from Johannes Moore and some mournful cello brought gravitas to the serious message of ‘The Truth Sent From Above’ in the opening of the Fantasia On Christmas Carols. This soon cheerfully gave way to some crystal choral singing especially on the wonderful rendering of ‘The Somerset Carol’ where the singers sent delicate layers of sound across the church, at times showing restrained power before fading gently into tranquillity. The baritone sounded a mite jollier on a rousing ‘On Christmas Night All Christians Sing’, the Sussex Carol, with some lovely responses from the ladies and beguiling harmonies The musicians neatly slipped in ‘samples’ from other carols, only briefly threatening to overpower the singers, and rose to the occasion with confidence for a full-throttle brassy finale.
Soaring soprano voices set the mood for Rutter’s absorbing piece and throughout this the choir handled the shifts of harmony and rhythm well, watchfully conducted and coaxed by Michael Stefan Wood BEM. While showing delicacy in the folk songs, the singers generally showed they could maintain tone while at full power. One particular highlight of the chorus work was the caressing calm of the anonymous 15th century poem ‘Of a Rose, a lovely Rose’, featuring some attractive woodwind from the orchestra. Late substitute soprano Danni O’Neill was outstanding, especially in the melodic ‘Esurientes’, showing a nice line in vibrato and control of tone as she dovetailed beautifully with the choir and orchestra.
Set a great example by the performers, the congregation threw themselves into some traditional carols in a heart-warming concert that showed what fine music can be found at local level.