Norwich Music Group

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

In aid of the Big C Appeal, the singers and instrumentalists gave a whole-hearted performance of a well- designed programme under conductor Philip Aldred with Frances Allright as leader of the orchestra.

The opening was quietly reflective, with Jesu, Joy and the lyric Kyrie from Jenkins' Armed Man Mass sung with piano accompaniment. The Hymn before Battle from the same work was more energetic and stirring.

A change of direction was confirmed by movements from Le Cid by Jules Massenet. Like Bizet, he surrendered to Spain's romantic seductions. Full of rhythmic exuberance, bright instrumental colour and catchy tunes, his score offered opportunities that the orchestra seized with a will.

Then came Carmina Burana, Carl Orff's passionate setting of medieval poems from Germany. From the first clashing chords proclaiming inexorable Fortune to the conclusion that echoes it after hailing the power of love, the chorus gave its all without flagging.

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Wicklewood School Choir, trained by Claire Dixon, made its contribution too, with the children's light voices adding another colour to the rainbow of tone.

At his best, when he did not have to contend with the heaviest orchestration, the baritone soloist Fearghus Cooper got his tongue round his words like a man used to singing in Latin. He also enjoyed parodying a naughty abbot. Soprano June Harrison achieved her moment of intensity as she soared in ecstasy to come down from the peak in graceful vocal swirls.

The orchestra produced power, even majesty, with a host of well-judged details. At times, though, it might have been more considerate to the singers.

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