Hailsham Choral’s concert at All Saints Church was arguably the most demanding selection of choral masterpieces I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing.
There were short items by Palestrina, Victoria, Guerrero, Viadana, Gabrielli, Mozart, Haydn, Reinberger, Franck and Faure. In addition they performed five of Parry’s Songs of Farewell and premiere of The Whispering Mass by Marcus Haddow. As if that was not enough, their brilliant accompanist Colin Hughes played a Bach Siciliana and an Elegy in memory of G.H.Knight by Martin How.
That rather terrifying programme would be beyond the reach of many splendid choirs, but a number of easily-overlooked facts made this an evening of sheer magic. First, director and conductor Jozik Kotz is himself a distinguished singer, ever sensitive to the nuance which lifts each phrase and permits words to be heard. In addition, Colin Hughes is a musician in depth -- a fine organist (and violinist if needs be). Within the choir are singers of exceptional musical insight, and prominent among the tenors was the composer of The Whispering Mass, which achieved the seemingly impossible task of combining the Latin Mass and modern pop music. Soprano Rachel Chilton’s solo in Marcus’s Mass showed how deep is the choir’s quality.
The All Saints organ which purred and thundered under Colin’s hands and feet is an outstanding example of the work of Arthur Harrison, better known for the organs in Westminster Abbey and Royal Albert Hall. On a weekend in which we remember the Armistice of 1918, could one imagine a better local place to hear Parry’s Songs of Farewell? Parry knew how to let words shine through his music, and the performance was perhaps joint high-spot with The Whispering Mass. Yet ultimately it was the evening as a whole which mesmerised the audience. By Robin Gregory.