Review of a concert by the Lancaster and District Choral Society, given in the Priory Church, Lancaster, on Saturday 25th April 2015. (Lancaster Guardian )
Lancaster’s Priory Church was well filled for the Lancaster and District Choral Society’s Spring concert, and an appreciative audience was treated to a varied and ambitious programme.
Handel’s Coronation Anthems, written in 1727 for King George II and Queen Caroline, began with a spirited performance of ‘Zadok the Priest’. The sopranos rose well to the challenge of the sustained high passages, and the whole choir dealt ably with the tricky semiquaver passages, which were articulated in a clear and controlled way. The remaining anthems exhibited similar qualities, though some of Handel’s fugal writing was more difficult to deliver in the Priory acoustics. The textures of Haydn’s ‘The Heavens are Telling’ seemed more palatable to the singers, whose rousing performance of the piece, with a trio of soloists drawn from their ranks, brought the first half of the programme to a close.
Ian Pattinson’s splendid organ accompaniment more than made up for the absence of an orchestra. The Harrison organ in the chancel provided good support for the singers, while the Willis pipework in the West Gallery offered contrasting effects, notably in the brass fanfare sections in ‘The King Shall Rejoice’.
Conductor John Perrin’s bold decision to perform Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’ in the second half of the concert was amply justified. The work had been very thoroughly prepared, and the singers succeeded admirably in projecting the very different characteristics and moods of the four psalms set by Bernstein. The quiet unison singing of the passage ‘Behold how good, and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity’ was the outstanding moment of the evening. The tone colours of the Priory organ were again used to good effect by Ian Pattinson, well supported on percussion by Dianne Bird. Special mention must be made of 12 year old Phillip Alpin’s excellent treble solo in Psalm 23, accompanied on the harp by AnnaKate Pearson, who also played two effective harp solos during the evening.
The performance was brought to a conclusion with a lively account of a group of songs from ‘West Side Story’, again by Bernstein. Richard MacGregor’s piano accompaniment brought to life the strong rhythms of these pieces, and the singers responded with commitment and obvious enjoyment to the broad range of emotions addressed in the various songs. Congratulations are due to John Perrin and his team for the high standards they set and the wide repertoire they bring to their listeners.