REVIEW: Remembrance concert offers joyful yet reverential singing in Haywards Heath

Mid Sussex Remembrance Concert, Dolphin Centre, Haywards Heath, November 13

From left: Eloise Irving, David Hannen, Robert Hammersley, John Baker and Jane Haughton. Picture by Melvyn Walmsley
From left: Eloise Irving, David Hannen, Robert Hammersley, John Baker and Jane Haughton. Picture by Melvyn Walmsley

At the memorable climax of their Remembrance musical offering, which raised a handsome sum for the Royal British Legion, Robert Hammersley conducted the Ardingly Choral Society and Mid Sussex Sinfonia – each on top form – in a jubilant yet reverential performance of Vivaldi’s popular ‘Gloria’ (RV 589).

It rang out the angels’ message, ‘Peace to men of goodwill’, but underlined our need for mercy.

Facially and vocally Eloise Irving (soprano) and Jane Haughton (alto) captured the unpresumptuous but joyful heart of Vivaldi’s masterpiece, echoing each other seamlessly as they praised, blessed, adored and glorified God.

Before the interval, the performers rose above noisy air conditioning, a faulty PA system and a keyboard gremlin to present a polished, well balanced programme.

More than 100 voices and orchestra brought us to our feet for Hammersley’s ‘Remembrance’, with young George Figgis playing the poignant trumpet solos.

Next, Ardingly College Prep School choir sweetly entertained us, starting with an Ave Maria.

Their concluding medley-with-actions, ‘This Train’, ‘Swing Low’ and ‘When the Saints’, won a deserved encore.

Re-enter chorus and orchestra. An exquisite Bach/Gounod/Hammersley ‘Ave Maria’ was effectively followed by the other-worldly charm of Barber’s ‘Agnus Dei’ (transcribed from his ‘Adagio for Strings’).

Before the audience joined in Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’ came a rare gem – a gentle, unassuming ‘Magnificat’ attributed to Pergolesi 60 years after the exuberant Vivaldi. Here soloists should convey the acceptant awe of a young woman about to re-shape history.

Eloise Irving, Jane Haughton, John Baker (tenor) and David Hannen (bass) warmly suggested the nourishing ‘good things’ that selfless sacrifices preserve.

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