Sussex Chorus, King’s Church, Burgess Hill, review: A successful epilogue to Alan Vincent’s work with the Chorus

Musical director Alan Vincent, centre, after the presentation
Musical director Alan Vincent, centre, after the presentation

Alan Vincent’s farewell concert with Sussex Chorus, held in the King’s Church on December 1, ended in joyous exultation with a rendition of ‘Messiah Part 1’ and the ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Worthy is the lamb’ choruses.

On familiar ground, the Chorus sang their hearts out in those monuments to Baroque choral writing and were duly supported by the excellent Kent Sinfonia, led by Christian Halstead, and four top-drawer soloists, who all joined in the final choruses to boot.

And, firmly in charge, Alan showed again what a fine conductor he is.

The evening began with Haydn’s Little Organ Mass, a short work but one clearly enjoyed by the singers, with John Walker in his accustomed place at the keys. They were focused and on their metal, achieving good contrast in dynamics and expression, notably in the Credo. The sopranos have a good, unified line with a strong alto section contrasting well in character. The decline in numbers in the male sector left them rather exposed in places but they tried valiantly to step up to the mark. It is here that the choir’s incoming conductor will need to bring things back in balance.

The Chorus is a fine choir and needs new blood to continue the excellent achievements of many years’ communal music making. What better way to share the most sociable and disparate of arts of an evening than in such a choir?

Handel’s Messiah remains an ever-green go-to for choral societies and it was somehow an appropriate choice for the evening. The Chorus really did sing their part with conviction and accuracy, especially in the ‘For unto us and Glory to God’ sections, the latter highlighting the fantastic brass players of the Sinfonia.

And then there were the soloists.

It was the choir’s evening but these four peerless performers were all quite wonderful. All four were so technically assured as to make light of all the melismatic writing in the Handel arias, and in Eloise Irving’s exquisite interpretation of her solos in the Haydn Mass, Messiah and the challenging but superbly executed ‘Exsultate Jubilate’ by Mozart, which ended the first half of the concert, the audience heard one of the most lovely, even voices on the circuit.

Tabitha Reynolds’ warm and full alto, Joshua Owen Mills’ controlled and flexible tenor and Thomas Humphreys’ very accurate and clear bass were all a joy to hear.

This was an evening representing a passing on of the baton and was a successful epilogue to Alan’s work with the Chorus. They should now start the new era in boisterous mood, spreading their message and encouraging more singers to join Jack Thompson and the Chorus in future exploration of both established and new choral repertoire.

There is so much wonderful music out there to be enjoyed and here is a choir who do just that.

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