REVIEW: Cantemus, Emsworth

The Havant-based mixed voice choir, known as Cantemus, has around 30/40 members – consisting of a splendidly balanced group of soprano, alto, tenor and bass singers – all highly enthusiastic, incredibly talented, and, quite obviously, very eager to join in with lots of varied musical concerts, around Hampshire and Sussex.

Their latest concert – “a sequence of music for Lent” – was given, on Saturday 24th March, at the outstanding St. James’ Church, in the centre of Emsworth, during which they not only demonstrated their artistic skills, but also combined perfectly with its exceptional church organ, which was being played by Andrew Dibb, who has enjoyed a successful career in music education – consisting of choral direction and teaching – especially joining in with concerts having such a highly varied programme as this one in particular.

Having begun with a few organ solos, the choral elements of this fascinating concert were then enthusiastically conducted by Malcolm Munro. Although artistically utilising the organ as a serious guide to their earlier music, by Bach, Brahms, Kenneth Leighton and others, the first half then included some organ solos by the conductor – who also happens to be their Musical Director.

Following a stimulating Interval, the Final Part of this concert concentrated on an extremely holy, highly fascinating, musical composition, by the well-known French composer, Gabriel Faure, which was actually written in 1887 – when he was only 42 – thus reflecting the similar skills and timing of the British composer, Sir Edward Elgar – who had also lived in Fittleworth, Sussex.

Faure’s Requiem was eagerly performed, not only by all those in the choir, but also by two extremely passionate soloists – soprano, Margaret Walker and baritone, Henry Neill. This work mostly consisted of grandly fascinating and incredibly mesmerizing music, which all reflected the captivating interior of St. James’ Church, to the obvious ecstasy of most of those present – all of which was keenly expressed right at the conclusion of such a traditional, and adventurously ethereal, evening of music.

John Wheatley