Holy Trinity Church, Millom
22 February 2015
I attended a concert given by the Wordsworth Singers on Sunday the 22nd February in Holy Trinity church in Millom with little expectation that I would be surprised or moved.
I was - both!
You see, I am used to attending, on sufferance, concerts given by the general run-of-the-mill Anglican-sound-inspired British amateur choir, and leaving unconvinced by the performance, yet convinced that more could be done if folk were only encouraged to really use their voices. Here, at last, was the proof - a choir of amateur voices prepared to take the (Spanish) bull by the horns and give us some good, tonic Iberian tones. The sound was full, the pitching sound, the phrasing exemplary, the pronunciation quite acceptable, and the vocal texture generally full, vibrant, and well-balanced. When a 'solo' effect was demanded from a section a solo is what we got, and when Hispanic special effects - vocal guitar strumming and so forth - were called for, these likewise were served up with panache. We even had true, gutsy chest singing from the women, especially so from the altos, something I had quite given up on from British choirs. Both the choir and its very talented young director, Mark Hindley, are to be roundly congratulated. ¡ Muchas gracias! ¡ Muy bravo!
The repertoire, in three languages, Spanish, Latin and Basque, and drawn from the last two centuries, was extraordinarily varied, ranging from the Renaissance and Baroque flavours of Pablo Casals' (Yes, it is he!) 'O Vos Omnes' through the wonderful folk-inspired 'Sagastipean' of Javier Busto, to the extraordinary cycles of Manuel Oltra and Antonio José, respectively 'Tres Canciones de Amor' and 'Cinco Coros Castellanos'.
I couldn't pick a favourite - or, more correctly, I suppose, there were so many! If pushed to nit-pick, I would venture an opinion that the men's singing, though very fine in strong passages, might perhaps have been a little less assured than the women's in the softer passages, needing more tone and support, and that the soprano sound, though flexible and valiant throughout, might have profited by leaning towards that of the 'gutsier' alto chest voices in this repertoire. Again, the Latin pronunciation might have drawn more upon the articulations of the Spanish language, and the singing in this language, though well-managed, might have profited from tenser 'e's and 'o's, and stronger tonic accents in places.
But these are quibbles: the concert, the programme, and the singing were all wonderful. The choir was complemented by fine and sensitive performances from a very good young guitarist, Manus Noble, who was at ease and informative in the presentation of his pieces, as was Mr Hindley. I especially enjoyed Mr Noble's performances of Len Brouwer's 'Un Dia de Noviembre', a piece of great lyrical beauty, in which delicate melodic lines were to the fore, with beautiful tone drawn from the instrument, and Albeniz's 'Mallorca', in which Mr Noble showed us his perfect mastery of difficult voicings. ¡ Bravo!
All in all, a wonderful evening, and not the last, I hope!