Review of Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra and Eastbourne College Choral Society by Robin Gregory
THE FIRST step in securing a successful choral concert is to choose an attractive selection of music, and then to perform it in the right order.
Conductor Graham Jones is a master of this process, and St Saviour’s Church on May 1 was packed and enthusiastic even before the first note sounded.
Weber’s Jubilee Overture is a splendid, though little-known, opener. Short, tuneful and culminating in what sounds exactly like our national anthem, it gave the orchestra a chance to shine.
Graham clearly has royal connections which informed him in advance of the date of the Abbey wedding-of-the-year and thus enabled him to surprise us all by the simple ruse (in the excellent printed programme) of using the Germanic name for what has become God Save the Queen.
Parry’s Hear My Words is a great ‘sing’, and Eastbourne College Choral Society did the composer of Jerusalem proud. Former Eastbourne College pupil Andrew Wicks (tenor), Head of Vocal Studies Martin Elliott (baritone), Head of Academic Music David Force (organ) and the Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra convinced they could have coped even alongside Parry’s planned 2,400 choral singers.
And, to dispel any possible lingering doubts about this, the orchestra and the two soloists then brought the first half to a triumphant conclusion with their Pearl Fishers duet.
We all have our favourite recordings of this, and it is a taxing six minutes for the tenor; but this was a performance which justifiably brought prolonged applause, which continued for conductor and leader (Lisa Wigmore).
After the interval Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, a work of great beauty by the 18-year-old future successor to Verdi, was given a performance which proved, if proof were needed, that this should be a regular repertoire piece.
It has great operatic solos, joyous choral passages, and boundless orchestral opportunities.
Graham had clearly worked well at rehearsal, and chosen soloists who brought the necessary operatic ‘dash’ to the composition.
The brass plays a vital part in driving the joyous passages forward, and the audience enjoyed the precision displayed as much (I suspect) as the brass-players enjoyed performing.
The many young singers on stage will, certainly, have learnt more about music on this occasion than any amount of lonesome practice could achieve.