It felt wonderfully apt to round off this splendid Christmas Concert by Dartington Community Choir with a number of congregational carols.
The main body of the programme had been devoted respectively to the music of the Lutheran Handel and the young Catholic Mozart, so carols – essentially just songs of community celebration – provided the perfect grand-finale.
The choir was on top form in Part 1 of Messiah, where conductor Simon Capet wisely chose bright tempi that imbued the all-too-familiar music with a real freshness, while still allowing singers to articulate clearly, and not fall behind. Indeed, one of the most striking features of Simon’s direction was his innate ability to imprint his own musicality on the performance, often with a mere finger movement, but to which both players and voices nevertheless instantly responded.
The choir was joined by a superb team of young soloists, all of whom distinguished themselves both in solo and concerted items. Soprano Abigail Broughton and Juliet Curnow (mezzo-soprano) were in fine voice throughout, but special mentions must go to tenor Stefan Kennedy, and particularly to bass Richard Walshe, whose exceedingly warm and well-rounded tone was a real joy to listen.
Mozart’s charming Credo Mass has the virtue of having relatively short movements, something his employer at the time demanded, lest supper should apparently be delayed. But there is still much to enjoy in this early work, and where choir and soloists again rose to the occasion from the very first note with great aplomb.
The specially-convened orchestra, led with assurance by Anna Cockcroft, made an invaluable contribution to the evening’s unmitigated success, as, too, did Simon’s showmanlike and anecdotal conclusion to the evening when the packed audience joined in with the singing.
With the added bonus of the superb setting and acoustic, this was an evening to warm the heart of even the most affirmed Bah Humbug present.
PHILIP R BUTTALL
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