Archived Concerts 2009 – 2010

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2009 – 2010


NATIONAL CHILDRENS ORCHESTRA
Saturday 22nd August 2009 3:00pm
Royal Concert Hall
The Nottingham Harmonic Choir were delighted to provide the choral forces for the National Children’s Orchestra Summer concert.
Mendelssohn ELIJAH
Saturday 14th November 2009 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

MENDELSSOHN Elijah

Pumeza Matshikiza Soprano
Catherine Hopper Mezzo soprano
Benjamin Segal Tenor
George von Bergen Baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor – Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post – Monday, November 16, 2009, 09:50
No Mendelssohn anniversary would be complete without his Elijah. Historians see the work as epitomising the Victorian oratorio, but it rarely sank to the level of a period piece under Richard Laing’s dynamic direction.
Original features range from the prophet’s opening solo – before the orchestral overture! – to an exquisite blending of chorus and semi-chorus in Part Two.
Whether embodying priests of Baal or voices of the people, the Harmonic choir brought a real feeling of urgency to the action. Reflective choruses were lucidly projected.

Of a fine young solo team, George von Bergen’s ringing Elijah had fire in his belly, while everyone could take courage from Pumeza Matshikiza’s soprano arias.
Catherine Hopper excelled in virtue (Angel) and villainy (Jezebel). Benjamin Segal’s lyrical tenor (Obadiah, Ahab) charmed the ear. In Part 1 of the story, Southwell Minster choirboy David Edmondson-Jones showed a nice sense of drama as look-out.

The Orchestra da Camera has never sounded better, underlining the score’s many pictorial touches with zest. In Elijah’s air It Is Enough, the cello solo was out of this world. The Albert Hall made an apt setting for Mendelssohn’s Biblical musical.

Brief notes
Elijah was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he loved. In 1829, Mendelssohn had organized the first performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion since the composer’s death, and was instrumental in bringing this and other of Bach’s works to widespread popularity. In contrast, Handel’s oratorios never went out of fashion (in England at any rate). Mendelssohn prepared a scholarly edition of some of Handel’s oratorios for publicat
ion in London. Elijah is modeled on the oratorios of these two Baroque masters. However, the style clearly reflects, in its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral colour, Mendelssohn’s own genius as an early Romantic composer.
The work is scored for four vocal soloists, a full symphony orchestra and a large chorus singing usually in four, but occasionally eight or three (women only) parts. The part of Elijah is sung by the bass/baritone and is a major role.

Mendelssohn originally composed the work with a German text, but upon being commissioned by the Birmingham Festival to write an oratorio, he had the libretto translated into English, and the oratorio was premiered in the English version.

Handel MESSIAH
Saturday 5th December 2009 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Laura Mitchell Soprano
Lina Markeby Mezzo soprano
Daniel Joy Tenor
Simon Kirkbride Bass

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

Organ – Philip White-Jones

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor – Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post
Under its new Director of Music, Richard Laing, and accompanied by Orchestra da Camera, the Harmonic Choir gave a memorable performance of Messiah which earned rapturous applause from the large audience. Handel’s oratorio is, of course, a work of extraordinary genius; yet to bring such familiar music fully to life, as here, requires something special. From the first note to the last, these performers showed their deep respect for music they know inside out; and despite its familiarity they approached it with a freshness of vision and an attention to detail which brought out the emotional eloquence of the work, with its inspired fusion of Handel’s music and Jennens’ scriptural text. Every line seemed full of meaning and deeply felt.

Laing is, clearly, already perfectly attuned to his singers. The Chorus produced a well-balanced, beautifully integrated sound, responsive to every nuance. The careful control of dynamics was particularly noticeable. Orchestra da Camera played with great sensitivity, their crisp, clear textures and expressive style complementing the singing. There were impressive solo performances from soprano Laura Mitchell, mezzo Lina Markeby, tenor Daniel Joy and, standing in at short notice, bass-baritone Adrian Clark.

Grahame Whitehead

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS
Saturday 19th December 2009 7:00pm
Wednesday 23nd December 2009 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Organ – John Morehen

Conductor – Richard Laing

THORESBY COLLIERY BAND

Conductors – Melvin White and Peter Collins

Review
Nottingham Evening Post
One of the many good things about the Harmonic Carol Concerts is the free programme which, when unfolded, seems to resemble an architectural plan. The Christmas hymns for audience, choir, organ and band stand like columns supporting an edifice, with symmetrically placed contributions from choir and band.

And in the centre of the design, as is right and proper, are the children. The concert would lose its heart if ever the children were denied their chance to sing Away in a Manger. They make a wonderful sight standing on the stage, two of them chosen to conduct, whilst the festively-bedecked choir and the band in their Santa hats accompany them.

As always, the programme was a clever mix of the traditional and familiar with the new and surprising. The choir, directed by Richard Laing, was stylish whatever they sang: movingly restrained in In the Bleak Midwinter and exuberant in the jazzy arrangement of Ding Dong Merrily. We even had kazoos in I Saw Three Ships.

The Thoresby Colliery Band, conducted by Melvin White, was on effervescent form in numbers such as
The Shining Star and Riverdance. Their playing combined razor-sharp ensemble with a sense of fun and spontaneity.

William Ruff

Puccini MESSA DI GLORIA / Rossini STABAT MATER
Saturday 20th March 2010 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

PUCCINI Messa di Gloria

ROSSINI Stabat Mater

Sally Harrison Soprano
Caryl Hughes Mezzo soprano
James Edwards Tenor
Simon Thorpe Baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor – Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post – Monday, March 22, 2010
A Casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the Harmonic Choir was staging an evening of opera at the city’s Albert Hall on Saturday. Rossini and Puccini were the featured composers, and the music so vividly created by the Harmonic Choir, the Orchestra da Camera and guest singers sounded distinctly operatic. The management even posted ice-cream sellers in the auditorium during the interval.
When Rossini met a request to compose the text of the Stabat Mater, expressing the Virgin Mary’s grief at the Cross, his personal style was firmly entrenched. And while departing from most people’s idea of sacred music, his Stabat Mater powerfully reflects that grief.
The jaunty rhythms of No. 6 did appear a little out of place. But the ensuing Cavatina for solo mezzo, a dramatic “Inflammatus”, a solo quartet and the magnificent finale all spoke directly to the heart.
In their a cappella movement, the voices of Sally Harrison, Caryl Hughes, James Edwards and Simon Thorpe blended admirably. Conductor Richard Laing drew persuasive performances from his choral singers and players.

Logically enough, Laing saved the crowning Gloria movement for the end of Puccini’s early Messa di Gloria, rather than having it in its traditional place before the Credo. Here, the animated rhythm seemed fully in keeping with the words.

Edwards voiced his solo thanksgiving, Thorpe suffering and blessings to fine effect. Together with the ever responsive chorus, an orchestral horn supported them in a poignant Agnus Dei.

Peter Palmer

Southwell 2010 – SUMMER SERENITY at SOUTHWELL
Saturday 22nd May 2010 7:30pm
Southwell Minster

DURUFLE Motets:
Ubi caritas, Tota pulchra es, Tu es Petrus, Tantum Ergo
BARBER Agnus Dei
DURUFLE ‘Prélude’ from Suite, op.5
ELGAR Lux Aeterna
BRUCKNER Motets:
Tota Pulchra es Maria, Os Justi, Ave Maria
DURUFLE Requiem

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor – Richard Laing
Organ – Philip White-Jones

Review
Nottingham Evening Post – Tuesday 25 May 2010
It was almost as if Southwell was throwing down a challenge to the Harmonic Choir on Saturday: here’s the perfect setting – now impress us with your singing. As the sun streamed through the West Window onto the cathedral’s great pillars it did seem as if the singers would have a tough job to be as impressive as their surroundings. But as soon as the performance started any doubts vanished.

The choir has become a very responsive instrument in the hands of new conductor Richard Laing. In the concert’s largely unaccompanied first half their alertness to direction was apparent in the way that they sang with their eyes as well as their mouths. Tuning was secure, phrasing subtle and control of dynamics often thrilling, producing not only sonic grandeur but also the gentlest pianissimos.

The programme was a masterpiece of planning. Motets by Duruflé and Bruckner plus Elgar’s Lux Aeterna (set to his Nimrod music) and Barber’s Agnus Dei (set to his famous Adagio) made up Part 1 and Duruflé’s Requiem filled Part
2. The effect really was as serene as the choir’s publicity claimed and in each jewel-like offering the Minster’s architecture seemed an integral part of the musical experience.

The Requiem’s two soloists were drawn from the ranks of the choir. Soprano Sarah May Morris brought touching purity and control to her performance of the Pie Jesu and Geoff Harbach was the eloquent baritone. The organ was played with distinction (notably in the Duruflé Prelude) by Philip White-Jones.

William Ruff

original website info:

This promises to be a beautiful concert in the peaceful surroundings of Southwell Minster, where the acoustics will enhance this style of music.

Barber’s Agnus Dei is his choral version of the Adagio for strings, which is simply spine tingling.
Similarly Elgar’s Lux Aeterna is a choral arrangement of Nimrod from the Enigma Variations.
Duruflé’s Requiem is one of the most peaceful and lyrical settings in existence.

In early summer with the evening sun glowing through the stained glass windows onto the old stone pillars, what could be a finer setting for such wonderful music. Come and escape the hassles of life and enjoy a serene evening with us!

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