UEA Choir, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH After a seasonal start with traditional jollities in the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, conductor John Aplin's UEA Choir turned to two large-scale English choral works from the inter-war period.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

After a seasonal start with traditional jollities in the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, conductor John Aplin's UEA Choir – with a semi chorus from Norwich High School and the Academy of St Thomas Orchestra – turned to two large-scale English choral works from the inter-war period.

The contrast between Vaughan Williams' Sancta Civitas and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast was fascinating.

Scripture was the basis of the two oratorios and both, for different reasons, hymned the fall of Babylon.

But the mysticism of the first work seemed rather remote when contrasted with the red-blooded drama of the second, and the sense of serene contentment was less compelling than a feeling of triumph.

James Rutherford was the soloist. A powerful, dark-toned bass-baritone, he catalogued Belshazzar's state with more than a hint of menace, then read out the writing on the wall with the voice of doom. This was fine vocal acting.

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Walton's music also seemed to inspire the chorus, who showed real determination as they told how that famous drinks party in Babylon ended in tears. They were helped in their heroic task by the orchestral scoring. The instrumentation was rich and vividly coloured.

t The concert took place at St Andrew's Hall.

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