Most large choirs have to rely on a rehearsal-accompanist in the initial preparation of a new work, able only to afford the orchestra’s services virtually on the day.
Dartington Community Choir opted for a second pianist for their performance of Bach’s St John Passion, with John Bryden and Rupert Jeffcoat combining in a special arrangement by Jonathan Watts.
An orchestra can easily drown out the efforts of weeks of practice, something of which a single concert-grand piano is far less capable. But the jury is still out as to whether the piano’s essential percussive nature, especially with the top player often tinkling in the topmost register, really could provide truly appropriate support, compared, even, with the sustained sound of an organ, and especially in the middle part of the harmony.
That said, the singers couldn’t be faulted for their unfailing enthusiasm, and expressive qualities in the chorales and slower-moving choruses, which conductor Simon Capet fashioned with genuine emotion.
Milly Forrest and Juliet Curnow sang with great projection and fine tone throughout. John Bacon coped well with the excessive demands as the Evangelist, even if, especially when the voice was starting to tire, the declamatory nature of the role became somewhat compromised. Lawrence Halksworth brought richness and warmth as Jesus, with Alex Bevan and Julian Chou-Lambert largely secure in their respective contributions.
PHILIP R BUTTALL