Hailsham Choral Society, Remembrance Concert review, All Saints Church, Eastbourne, November 9

Despite the pouring rain, All Saints Church was well-filled last Saturday.

We were all confident that Hailsham Choral Society would not merely be well turned-out in red and black, but would sing like angels under their director and conductor Jozik Kotz.

Their performance certainly did not disappoint despite the news that Jozik is standing down after 13 years.

Their usual well-printed and well-written programme notes announced that Vivaldi’s Gloria in D was to be the first work. On this occasion all the accompaniments were to be provided by pianist Kevin Atkin: no orchestra and no organ! To my surprise I found the clarity this provided actually increased my pleasure in the Gloria because the Latin text became unusually audible, and the soprano soloists Rachel Chilton and Fiona Mansfield could really shine in the Laudamus Te, the Domine and the Qui Sedes.

Haydn’s Te Deum for Empress Marie Therese followed. Despite its dedication it is particularly associated with a visit to Eisenstadt in 1800 by Admiral Nelson, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of the Nile. Once again the admirable choral forces were accompanied by pianist Kevin Atkin. It was a thrilling account of a work by one of music’s greatest composers, and it sent us enthusiastically to the drinks table for the interval.

After the break we stood in silence for Douglas Guest’s setting of Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem ‘For the Fallen’, and then we arrived at Faure’s Requiem, which dates from the end of the 19th century. Many versions of this now much-loved work exist. My own favourite recording is a Decca LP with Ansermet conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and two outstanding soloists: baritone Gerard Souzay and soprano Suzanne Danco. It was interesting to hear the work with piano accompaniment, though in all conscience I must say I missed the magical sound of a good orchestra. Jozik Kotz himself sang the baritone parts, and Rachel Chilton the soprano. Both were so mellifluous I was in seventh heaven when they were singing. Rachel’s Pie Jesu seemed to float heavenwards, and Jozik’s Libera Me perfectly prepared us for the closing In Paradisum: “eternal rest” indeed, and totally matching Faure’s setting.

The chorus was impeccable.

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