The Baroque Voice
St Andrew's Church, Penrith
19 June 2004
The Wordsworth Singers' programme of choral and instrumental music was cleverly constructed – the first half given over to early baroque music by Purcell and Monteverdi and the second to the three most significant composers of the late period – Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.
The four early pieces – Purcell's Te Deum in D and his coronation anthem of 1685 My heart is inditing and Monteverdi's Ave Maria Stella and Laudate Dominum – gave the excellent soloists opportunity to show their mastery of the intricate ensemble work, and the full choir their precise singing.
Vivaldi's Concerto in C for two trumpets was expertly played by Timothy Barber and Thomas Osborne, recent students at the Royal Northern College of Music, and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 4 in G received a sparkling performance from Emma Hancock (violin), John Turner (recorder) and Amanda Babington (recorder). The Lonsdale Chamber Orchestra were stylish accompanists.
The vocal highlight was the choir's performance of Bach's Lobet den Herrn. The complex fugal textures were met with apparent ease and some carefully crafted dynamics.
All credit to conductor Ian Thompson for such a fine concert.
England, Shakespeare and St George
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
23 April 2004
For his last concert as conductor of the Wordsworth Singers, Michael Hancock devised a programme to celebrate all things English.
George Dyson's resolute setting of Three Songs of Courage set the tone of appreciative pilgrimage.
The pianist, David Jones, gave a plangent rendition of Salut d'amour by Elgar, which was forcefully juxtaposed against a set of bawdy catches by Purcell.
Andrew Leggott, who read the poems throughout the evening, became Prospero as he set the scene for Vaughan Williams' magical setting of Shakespeare's Tempest, and then directed the mischievous Puck to go Over hill, over dale in search of a potion for love.
Northumbrian folksongs followed. The sprightly rhythms of Dance to thy Daddy and Bobby Shaftoe were delivered in good warm Geordie accents. Then there were mellow renditions of Scarborough Fair and the Irish song She Moved through the Fair.
The women sang Charles Wood's beautiful Music When Soft Voices Die and the evening was completed with Vaughan Williams' setting of lines from the Merchant of Venice in Serenade to Music. These words, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank", marked the end of an evening and the end of an era for the Wordsworth Singers.
Tonight's concert was imaginative and inventive.
Let us hope the Wordsworth Singers continue to provide us with equal pleasure in the future.
No Small Wonder
St Cuthbert's Church, Carlisle
28 January 2004
A most imaginative programme of music for the Epiphany season was given in St Cuthbert's Church by the Wordsworth Singers, conducted by Jeremy Suter (Master of the Music at Carlisle Cathedral) and accompanied at the organ by Hugh Davies.
The standard of singing throughout was excellent, enhanced by solo contributions, sensitively sung by members of the choir. Clear, flowing polyphony in anthems by Palestrina, Marenzio and Bull contrasted very effectively with music by Crotch, Cornelius and Mendelssohn. In The Three Kings by Cornelius, James Johnson contributed a fine baritone solo part, with the a cappella chorale accompaniment superbly done by the singers. In the first of three organ solos, Hugh Davies played Les Mages from Messiaen's La Nativité, a most evocative musical portrayal of a journey, magical and mysterious. Continuing the Christmas theme, the singers performed music by Poulenc, Howells, Warlock and a colourful piece entitled Illuminare Jerusalem by the contemporary Scottish composer Judith Weir.
In a serious vein, the Innocents were commemorated in music by Richard Dering and William Walton, culminating in a lament by Kenneth Leighton, in which Georgina Harland sang the soprano solo part most beautifully. More familiar pieces by Berlioz and Tchaikovsky, together with strikingly original items by contemporary composers Richard Shepard, Paul Edwards and Adrian Self were heard. In the last of these, Fiona Weakley, singing from the gallery, contributed an excellent soprano solo. Hugh Davies played further brief organ pieces concluding with a lively chorale prelude by Telemann. The presentation of Christ in the temple was aptly portrayed by the singers' interpretation of William Byrd's counterpoint and that of lesser known contemporary Johann Eccard. As a finale the Wordsworth Singers' performance of Nunc Dimittis by Holst provided a true reflection of a magnificent concert, much appreciated by the audience.