Choir get into their stride quickly at night of French sacred music

Sussex Chorus, 
French Sacred Music, 
All Saints Church, Hove, 
Saturday, March 21

A concert of French Sacred Music may not be everyone’s choice for a Saturday night out, minutes after the climax of the Six Nations Rugby, but those who heard Sussex Chorus’ concert at All Saints Church, Hove, had a super evening.

Like rugby, this was a concert of two halves.

Duruflés Requiem that opened the performance is an ethereal, modern work, with some very quiet passages, especially at the start. This makes it all the more important that the choir’s entries should not seem tentative, which might be said of the sopranos and the basses. However, it was not long before the whole choir got into their stride, especially in the crescendo in the second movement.

From then on they didn’t look back with the basses more than making up for their early quietness with a lovely passage in the Agnus Dei, at the top of their normal range.

Some natural tenors there, chaps?

The choral works bookended two excellent organ solo pieces, but more of them later.

In the second half finale, Gounod’s lovely St Cecilia Mass, the choir gave their best from the start with a gorgeous Kyrie.

My notes say “conductor getting the louds and softs he wants” and he will have been pleased with the accurate unison of the tremendous crescendo “et resurrexit”. It was a great performance of a magnificent work and you could see the choir enjoyed singing it.

I’d not heard Sussex Chorus since Alan Vincent took the helm and he clearly knows what he wants from them. They sang as a tight, well controlled unit throughout the evening, and he must be pleased with their performance.

Neither of the choral works are major platforms for soloists – no long arias. All four soloists gave their best in their short appearances however, and in the Gounod Paul Smy (tenor) and Michelle Jarman (soprano) were notable.

Underpinning the whole evening was Adrian Bawtree’s fine playing on All Saints’ impressive organ. He told me beforehand how much he enjoyed the instrument, which was clear from his renditions of Duprés Cortège et Litanie that closed the first half and especially so of the well known showpiece Widor’s Toccata that opened the second.

Anyone free on June 20 should be booking tickets for the choir’s Tribute to Vaughan Williams concert.

On this showing it will be a great evening – and no Rugby to conflict!