This was the regular end-of-academic-year concert by the University of Plymouth Choral Society, but it also marked the end of an era.
For the last seventeen years, conductor Simon Ible has not only tripled the membership, but also fashioned a community choir that can hold its own with any similar-sized outfit.
Not surprisingly, there seemed an added poignancy in the expressive slower numbers, with the simple, heartfelt sincerity of The Lark in the Clear Air a perfect example. This was also especially apparent in the Elegy and Minuet from John Ireland’s Downland Suite, played so expressively by the Sinfonia Strings, under the sensitive leadership of Mary Eade.
But if the first half clearly echoed sadder thoughts of Simon’s impending retirement, the university songsters cranked everything up for the evening’s final work, and Simon’s swansong – Haydn’s dramatic Nelson Mass.
Here once more was the usual enthusiastic singing that has been a hallmark of past performances, with the soloists also making telling contributions, and none more so than the effortless delivery and unfailing technique of soprano Anita Watson.
Simon has always had an uncanny knack for really effective programming on the night. Hopefully, though, his choice of the Haydn won’t actually prove prophetic, given its alternative title of Mass for Troubled Times. Let’s hope not, but he will still be sadly missed – and an especially hard act to follow.
PHILIP R BUTTALL