Concert: Lichfield Festival, Manchester Camerata (1 July 2016)
The opening concert of the Lichfield Festival and a commemoration on the hundredth anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme. It opens with the world premiere of We Remember Them an unaccompanied choral work by Deborah Pritchard specially commissioned by the Chorus and Festival and conducted by Ben Lamb.
This is followed by the Manchester Camerata playing Barber’s Adagio for Strings and then another Deborah Pritchard work, her Trumpet Concerto, Seven Halts on The Somme. These lead to the dramatic and reflective Brahms German Requiem in an arrangement for smaller orchestra newly orchestrated by John Traill by Deborah Pritchard.
Conducted by Ben Gernon, with Tine Thing Helseth on trumpet.
Lichfield Festival Concert Review - Less is More
‘Less is more’ certainly held true for the choir’s approach to the dynamics of both the new unaccompanied work “We Remember Them” and the Brahms Requiem. The intensity of the pianissimo passages in both works was profound, and produced a tremendous emotional connection with the audience, also setting off loud passages with truly dramatic fervour.
The evocative whispered opening of “We Remember Them”’ immediately conjured up the cold of dawn on the soon-to-be killing fields, with a sense of dreadful anticipation, but there was no horror in this work, only reflection on the beauty of the world and the immense gift of life by all those who fell. The warm blend of voices, particularly the lower parts, was notable, and this approachable, singable and haunting work is certainly a fine addition to the choral repertoire.
The more familiar German Requiem was given an interesting twist with its new orchestral scoring by Deborah Pritchard and John Traill for strings, timpani, harp, horns and organ. This was an excellent choice of work for the evening’s theme, as was the Samuel Barber and a further new Deborah Pritchard work “Seven Halts on the Somme”, but I did miss the variety of tonal colour which the conventional orchestration with woodwinds gives. Nevertheless, the choir gave a magnificent and profoundly felt performance, with an unbelievably quiet and controlled first entry setting the pattern of sustained intensity which was felt throughout the work. The response to an unfamiliar conductor was excellent, with fine dynamic control throughout and great care over details. Occasionally we lost the balance of voices, particularly in exposed tenor moments where one felt a boost from second altos or first basses might have helped the balance, but it was a valiant tenor effort and all voices sounded secure and well rehearsed. The fine baritone soloist Stephen Gadd blended expertly with his strong, vibrant performance, whilst soprano soloist Ailish Tynan had good projection and a powerful if somewhat operatic approach, with the ending of her solo again displaying a wonderful pianissimo.
This was a moving and deeply felt evening of music, with all of Deborah Pritchard’s contributions being sincerely worked, carefully crafted and approachable on a single hearing. The Cathedral Chorus can be proud of their first sally into the Festival programme…may it not be the last.
Megan Barr, July 2016