On November 11, one hundred years ago, the guns fell silent. No more whistles sounded in the trenches sending young men over the top, often to certain death.
It was a neat idea by the Eastbourne Choral Society to plan two concerts to sit either side of this historic date. The first took place at All Saints Church on Saturday July 7, and the second will follow on November 24. Their chosen works for July were Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light and John Rutter’s Requiem.
The sad fact is that in 1918 no-one heeded General Pershing’s warning against granting the Germans an Armistice. He believed they should be pursued to the very gates of Berlin. An Armistice, he said, would probably leave them an opportunity to set off again some time in the future. In 1938 his prediction proved all-too correct.
Neither Goodall (born 1958) nor Rutter (born 1945) experienced WW2. But the choice of their compositions was an inspiration. They write tuneful, listenable works, and Eternal Light demonstrates that a composer who is approachable can also be profound. John Hancorn extracted a very fine performance from a choir in great form, from two fine soloists, and from pianist Nick Houghton. Daisy Walford’s liquid soprano voice and Andrew Robinson’s warm, rounded baritone could not have been bettered. Andrew brought great clarity to the poems which Goodall cleverly intersperses with Latin texts. Eternal Light was first heard in 2008, and gives the lie to any idea that modern music is always either pop or incomprehensible.
After the break Rutter’s Requiem received a performance to treasure. Nick Houghton was at the organ, and the chamber ensemble provided instrumental subtlety from Susan Gregg (flute), Clare Worth (oboe), Joe Giddy (cello) and Dan Lauro (percussion). Hidden in the rich texture is a lovely oboe solo, and Clare Worth brought the melody out admirably. All Saints proved to be an ideal venue for this music, possibly Rutter’s finest, with the soloists combining perfectly with the well-balanced sections of the choir. Conductor John Hancorn rightly looked well-pleased with the performance. What, we ask, can follow this in November? By Robin Gregory.