REVIEW by Bill Witts
THE CHICHESTER SINGERS - Chichester Cathedral. Centenary of the 1918 Armistice. And all the trumpets sounded - Ronald Corp. Ein Deutches Requiem - Brahms
On the weekend before Armistice Day, The Chichester Singers put on a concert of two works that reminded us of the sacrifices made by young men in so many wars. The first work was a modern composition, And all the trumpets sounded by Ronald Corp, in which sections of the Latin Mass are sung by the chorus between five poems sung by the baritone soloist. The music is mostly war-like with thunderous beating of drums, loud fanfares from the trumpets and orchestration that seems to suggest the chaos of battle, and which was played with admirable discipline by Southern Pro Musica under the clear direction of conductor Jonathan Willcocks.
Baritone Gareth Brynmor John had a long and taxing role as the reciter of the poems of war and death and sang with clarity, musicality and good volume from beginning to end, though the acoustics of the Cathedral meant that most members of the audience were bent over their programmes, following the words. In the choral interludes, The Chichester Singers sang the more familiar Latin words of the Mass with confidence and with power that matched the orchestra. They were supported by the soprano soloist Claire Seaton, whose soaring voice added further emotion to the prayer to “grant them rest”. There was no let-up at the end, no quiet lamentation for those who died; this time all the trumpets sounded for the heroes who had passed over to the other side.
The second item in the concert was the “German Requiem” by Brahms, which was given its first performance 150 years ago. This is a well-known work that contains some well-loved music and the Singers performed it in German, which gave the work some additional character. It is a pleasure to listen to this oratorio, which is full of memorable tunes, and the Singers were in good form, singing the choruses more smoothly than in the previous work; the soprano line was particularly strong and confident.
For two of the movements of the oratorio, the choir was joined by the baritone soloist, Gareth Brynmor John, who sang dramatically about the mysteries of the end of life and, in the fifth movement, Claire Seaton finally took her place to sing the soprano solo “Ye now have sorrow”, her fine powerful voice dominating the chorus and orchestra. While Brahms had intended that much of the Requiem should be sung quietly for its emotional effect, the size of the orchestra and the dimensions of the Cathedral meant that the performance was generally loud. The singers and players were well controlled by the baton of Jonathan Willcocks, and the result was a stimulating performance of the work, which was much appreciated by the audience.