Dartington Community Choir and Sinfonietta
Great Hall, Dartington
I have to say I love Handel’s Messiah as much as the next man, and never tire of hearing its all-so-familiar mix of stunning choruses and attractive arias.
But, rather like the traditional turkey dinner, it’s not an absolutely essential part of the festive season’s proceedings, and, like anything, you tend to appreciate it more, when you’ve had a break for a while.
With conductor Simon Capet, Dartington Community Choir (DCC) is so fortunate in having not only an expert musician at its helm, but also a real motivator whom the singers respect, and so easily relate to – something that unfortunately doesn’t always go hand-in-hand.
Rather than coming up with another helping of Messiah, Simon chose the far-more-compact, but really-challenging Dixit Dominus – a work that would equally tax the capabilities of a smaller chamber choir of professional status, as a non-auditioned community choir, who sing because they enjoy it.
But that, of course, is the key to DCC’s ongoing and ever-burgeoning success. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you really want to pull out all the strings and give 100% commitment to the cause.
Cheerful and light-hearted
The opening work, on the other hand – Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass – was the complete opposite. Essentially really quite simple, every movement in a ‘happy’ major’ key, and very much modelled on Haydn’s religious philosophy of not always having to be morose and suitably serious to sing praises to God – cheerful and light-hearted music can do it just as well, and really rather better, too.
Oozing true Christmas spirit
True, the Ryba wasn’t deemed as overly challenging – unless the challenge was to try to keep a straight face while some of the lovely little pastoral tunes and catchy melodies were being played out by the orchestra. But again it was the sum of all the parts that made this Christmas programme as a whole so appealingly entertaining, simply oozing true Christmas spirit from start to finish.
Of course, once the New Year begins, echoes of Ryba and Dixit Dominus will all seem but a distant memory for the choir-members, as they start rehearsing for their April concert – and where Requiems by Duruflé and Karl Jenkins will be the order of the day. But Simon tells me he has something special up his sleeve – in the shape of a Japanese Shakuhachi – but more about this later.
Meanwhile, for the audience, strains of the Christmas Concert will surely still be echoing around the Great Hall rafters for some considerable time to come.
You can read my full review of the present concert here at Seen and Heard International
Philip R Buttall