Archived Concerts 2011 – 2012

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2011 – 2012

Saturday 12th November 2011 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

HANDEL Israel in Egypt

Laurie Ashworth Soprano
James Laing Countertenor
James Geer Tenor


Continuo – John Morehen

Conductor – Richard Laing


STOP PRESS: These three wonderful soloists will also be singing with us in Messiah next year, on 1 December 2012.
The bass soloist for that performance will be Simon Thorpe who sang with us for Puccini Messa di Gloria in March 2010.

Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Albert Hall,
by Grahame Whitehead
Sunday, November 13, 2011 from NottmPostEG
Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a masterpiece of choral composition, even if its subject – the Old Testament story of the Exodus – may have lost some of its immediate familiarity for today’s audience.
Conductor Richard Laing clearly relished the intense drama of the score and he drew an outstanding performance from both the Harmonic Choir and the superb Orchestra da Camera. Singing and playing alike had such full-blooded conviction that the world of the Plagues and the Crossing of the Red Sea came vividly to life.

The choir’s beautifully rounded sound, powerful, sensitive and always tightly disciplined, was well served by the acoustics of the hall.
Particularly impressive throughout was the clarity of diction achieved by such a large choir. Handel’s writing abounds in highly visual matching of music and text, and here, too, singers and orchestra excelled.
Their evocations of frogs, flies, locusts and hailstones captured the drama of the story, and there was a beautiful, brooding depiction of the ‘darkness which might be felt’. This was an elemental world of natural and supernatural powers.

Principal soloists Laurie Ashworth (soprano), James Laing (countertenor) and James Geer (tenor) gave first-class performances which had power and lyrical

end of review

brief notes

Written in 1737, Handel’s portrayal of the story of the escape of the early Israelis from their captivity and slavery in the Egypt of the Pharaohs is full of excitement and ingenious sound-pictures, particularly of the various plagues which beset the land.

A monumental piece for double chorus, Israel in Egypt is ideally suited to a large choral society with a fine sense of drama.
It is an unusual piece, giving only small roles to the soloists, and requiring great stamina from the choral forces. The lack of well-defined, character-driven solo roles was one reason that Israel in Egypt failed to find much success in Handel’s lifetime – at this time Italian opera was the most fashionable form of music. In addition, religious texts being performed in secular theatres was anathema to much of the public. These might have been drawbacks in Handel’s time but now Israel in Egypt is second in popularity only to Messiah among Handel’s oratorios.

Programme notes:

There are many informative programme notes on the web.
Link to one quite comprehensive one from a different choir.


There is a plethora of recordings out there, many of them fairly recent and virtually all using period orchestras, usually at baroque pitch. Some of them sound, to my ears, rather anaemic. One which is a little more healthy-sounding (while keeping an authentic baroque style and pitch) is Harry Christophers’ recording with his choir the Sixteen, though he omits most of the solo movements and inserts organ concerto movements between some of the numbers.

On youtube you can hear the traditional big British chorus style of singing the opening choris of the second half:
Moses and the children of Israel
which is a typically red-blooded account from Thomas Beecham. The recording is clearly old and somewhat crackly. I anticipate that our performance will be more like this, only with a little more accuracy and less sliding about from the choir. While ours will not be an ‘authentic’ performance on period instruments, we will strive for a ‘historically-informed’ sound from the orchestra

Saturday 3rd December 2011 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Lucy Hall Soprano
Juliette Pochin Mezzo soprano
Christopher Lemmings Tenor
Adrian Powter Bass-baritone


Organ – Michael Overbury

Conductor – Richard Laing


Review: MESSIAH 3 Dec 2011
Nottingham Harmonic Choir,
Royal Concert Hall,
by Peter Palmer
Sunday, December 04, 2011 NottmPost
You should be hearing many different views on the highlights of this Messiah, because there was hardly a dull moment in Saturday’s performance under Richard Laing.

Handel’s famous Hallelujah chorus is the main contender, the voices climbing to dizzying heights. Never have I seen the first tier of the audience rise at the start with such alacrity. A Martian eavesdropping would have sworn we, too, had been rehearsed.

The performance gripped because the dramatic and reflective sections of the music were strongly contrasted. I need only mention the choral cries of “Glory to God” after the solo soprano’s “There were shepherds abiding.” The latter stages of Part One were memorable for lilting arias from Juliette Pochin and Lucy Hall, the Orchestra da Camera adding the radiant colours of an Old Master painting.

Though not the most Italianate of tenors, Christopher Lemmings gave pathos to his Part Two lament. The choruses were consistently incisive here. Adrian Powter’s resonant “Why do the nations?” – taken at breakneck speed – cleared a path for the climactic revelation.

Soprano and orchestra combined beautifully in Part Three, and the lead violin, cello and harpsichord all had charisma. The choir sounded atmospheric in their hushed opening, electrifying in the crowning moments.

Having refreshed his Harmonic choristers, Richard Laing is now freshening up the repertoire. I urge you to catch their late show with fiddler Antje Weithaas at the Royal Concert Hall on March 28.

Saturday 17th December 2011 7:00pm
Wednesday 21st December 2011 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall


Organ – John Morehen

Conductor – Richard Laing


Bring the whole family to enjoy Christmas music at these ever-popular, child-friendly concerts.

The choir and band lead the audience in well-loved Christmas carols, while the choir provides more peaceful interludes with celestial carol settings and the Thoresby Colliery Band adds sparkle in its solo items.

The Thoresby Colliery Band is one of the most exciting brass bands in Europe, and regularly wins countless accolades for its inspirational playing. Even if you think you don’t like brass bands, this one will convert you.
Over the years they have played pieces ranging from Frosty the Snowman to Rossini’s William Tell Overture,
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Wagner’s Procession to the Minster.
If you get seats close enough to watch their percussion section, it is an amazing sight and sound.

Saturday 17th March 2012 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

WALTON Belshazzzar’s Feast
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Toward the Unknown Region
PARRY Blest Pair of Sirens
DELIUS Two Aquarelles
BAX Tintagel

Njabulo Mandlala Baritone


Continuo – Philip White-Jones

Conductor – Richard Laing


Olympic fever will inevitably be upon us by March 2012. Come and enjoy some of the highlights of British music to complement the Games.

The evening’s music will range from the dramatic climaxes of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast to Parry’s beautifully uplifting Blest Pair of Sirens.

Walton was commissioned to write a short choral work for the BBC in 1929, but the material and his imagination generated a much larger work full of excitement and highly charged action, portrayed by syncopated rhythms, unexpected harmonies and unusual additions to the orchestra.

Possibly less well known, Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region is a setting of a poem by Walt Whitman. It was written around the same time as his Sea Symphony and is reminiscent of that work with swirling slowly building climaxes and the characteristic harmonic shifts.

Delius’ Two Aquarelles – according to the score ‘to be sung of a summer night on the water’ have a blissful magical quality to them. The second gives just a hint of a hornpipe or possibly piracy.

Bax Tintagel is a magnificent orchestral tone-poem painting a music picture of the pounding of the seas around the cliffs with the ruins of the mediaeval Tintagel castle above.

Southwell 2012 – Rachmaninov VESPERS
Saturday 26th May 2012 7:30pm
Southwell Minster

TAVENER Song for Athene
ARVO PÄRT Beatitudes
CUI Magnificat

Conductor – Richard Laing
Organ – Michael Overbury


Southwell Minster will provide a wonderfully ethereal setting for these evocative works.

Rachmaninov’s Vespers were written in 1916, when Russia was torn by war and the internal strife was soon to erupt in revolution. Rachmaninov weaves many traditional Russian Orthodox hymn tunes into his Vespers setting, almost as a prayer for peace. The setting is symphonic in scale, full of rich choral harmonies with the huge dynamic ranges and sense of yearning so typical of Russian music.

John Tavener’s music seems to be designed to sound fantastic in the echoing vaults of our English Cathedrals. His Song for Athene was sung at the funeral of Princess Diana. It builds from the gentlest of murmurs to a staggering climax.

Arvo Pärt has a style similar to that of Tavener – sometimes refered to as mystic minimalism. His music is also inspired and influenced by early music, plainsong and Gregorian chant. His setting of the Beatitudes is gently reflective. Reactions on YouTube refer to it as utterly beautiful and inspiring.

César Cui was an older Russian composer – a contemporary of Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Mussorgsky. He was a prolific composer writing fourteen operas and hundreds of songs. The Magnificat is one of his few religious works.

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