Review of Summer Concert 2017
It is some time since your reviewer last attended a concert by the Baslow Choir. What better re-acquaintance could there be than at the choir’s summer gathering in lovely St Anne’s Church in Baslow itself? In the intervening period the choir has gained in self-confidence and togetherness. Heads are not buried in the music but watching the conductor and evidently enjoying the opportunity to make music and give pleasure to their audience. Especially noteworthy, since this is where amateur choirs are so often lacking, was the contribution by the tenors led by Glyn Herron.
The programme was a clever mixture of classical and modern, serious and sentimental, light and folksy. Rhythmically varied with some of the songs demanding (and receiving) much rhythmic and dynamic agility, the pieces ranged from a rousing opening chorus from Smetana’s Bartered Bride to Sibelius’s stirring Finlandia theme (sung to Be still, my soul) and included such favourites as Down by the Sally Gardens and I do like to be beside the seaside. A little known and jolly work was the American Patsy Ford Simms’s African-style Amani Utope. Well known musicals featured in the second half with excerpts from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair and The Sound of Music and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess from the other side of the Atlantic, and coming a little nearer home, from Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables. Altogether a rich mix, with some Bob Chilcott and even a piece by Sting, to add yet more musical variety to the occasion.
The guest contributions were provided by Nigel and Hannah Johnson. Gorgeously attired in a shimmering light green dress, Hannah sang several solos. She also accompanied the choir in their concluding medley from Les Misérables. Although not powerful, Hannah’s voice has great purity of tone – at times sounding almost like a treble – and with perfect pitch when reaching for her top notes. The highlight was her singing of Summer Time from Porgy and Bess followed closely by Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera. This is not to underestimate her moving performance of the Agnus Dei from Mozart’s Coronation Mass and an equally expressive rendition of I know that my Redeemer Liveth from Handel’s Messiah or her performance of the other pieces in her programme. Hannah’s father, Nigel, accompanied her on the organ for the classical works and, for his solo turn, played one of J. S. Bach’s great organ works, the Fantasia in G with its extraordinary and thrilling opening and closing sequences – each requiring enormous keyboard dexterity. This was a bold choice to include in what was otherwise a potpourri of popular classics and songs drawn from the lighter end of the musical spectrum.
Carol Reid provided the piano accompaniment and won deserved applause for the skill with which she did so. When not playing the piano, Carol tip-toed over to join the altos of the choir. As ever, Andrew Marples not only guided the choir with his usual vigour and attention to detail but also provided a light-hearted and informative commentary on what the choir was about to sing. He even managed to get the audience to join in the final chorus of that old American favourite, the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
It was still light when the concert ended although it was almost 10pm. What a nice way it had been to celebrate a balmy summer’s evening!