Two superb choral concerts at All Saints’ Church in Eastbourne

Eastbourne Choral Society
Eastbourne Choral Society

“My Cup Runneth Over...” On March 23, All Saints Church (ever-welcoming at the junction of Grange Road and Carlisle Road) was ringing to the wonderful performance of Haydn’s Creation by Hailsham Choral Society conducted by Jozik Kotz.

Just one week later John Hancorn was in charge of Eastbourne Choral Society’s intriguingly unusual performance of Brahms’s German Requiem.

John is particularly adept at concocting programmes which have a few elements of surprise. Brahms’s work is a difficult length: one hour requires the addition of a few extra delights, and we certainly got them.

Hardly had the chorus settled on their seats than the superb All Saints organ thundered forth without any introduction.

Nicholas Houghton gave us a performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor which set the rafters ringing. He then accompanied soprano Alexandra Kidgell and the choir in Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer. Her clear, almost metallic voice rang out particularly well in the section we all know, O For The Wings Of A Dove.

And then it was time for interval drinks! What at first seemed an unusually short first half allowed for an uninterrupted account of the spiritually-charged (and possibly mis-named) Requiem. I first discovered this wonderful work while on holiday in France. My hotel happened to be right next door to a church where a French choir and singers were to perform it. I was hooked! And so on Saturday March 30 I waited for the orchestra to take its place. The well-researched printed programme told me why none appeared: we were to have an organ accompaniment, surely. Again I was wrong. Nancy Cooley joined Nicholas Houghton at the piano, and the choir sang to four-hands-at-the-keyboard.

Any sense of disappointment soon vanished. Alexandra Kidgell and baritone Ben Davies were fine soloists, and the choir was uniquely sensitive and audible because they had no orchestra to drown them out. Of course, we missed that cushion of rich string sound which Brahms creates, and which we all know from our CDs, but what came across was the clear fact that everyone was singing from the heart. Without doubt much rehearsal had gone into creating a sensitive and understanding interpretation. It was, indeed, a memorable evening, and the performance was loudly applauded. By Robin Gregory.