Archived Concerts 2012 – 2013

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2012 – 2013


Elgar DREAM OF GERONTIUS

Saturday 10th November 2012 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

ELGAR Dream of Gerontius

Peter Auty Tenor (Gerontius)
Heather Shipp Mezzo soprano (Angel)
James Oldfield Bass (Priest/Angel of the Agony)

Queens Park Sinfonia

Conductor – Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Review: Nottingham Post
Monday, November 12, 2012
By William Ruff

Filling their voices with tears for Elgar

Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius circulates around the veins and arteries of the Harmonic Choir. This sense of intimate knowledge was apparent at the first entry of the semi-chorus who, as friends of the dying man, pray for him at his bedside. Elgar urged his singers to avoid sounding churchy and instead to fill their voices with tears. This was exactly the effect on Saturday night. When the full choir was used, the fact that the singers were securely inside the music led to the overwhelming splendour of ‘Praise to the Holiest’ as well as the vivid drama of the demonic chorus. Conductor Richard Laing ensured that the choral sound was well-balanced and the words well-projected.
Peter Auty sang the immensely difficult central role convincingly, almost reconciling the need to produce huge vocal energy whilst dying. Heather Shipp was nobly tender as the Angel, rich of voice and clearly projecting the narrative. James Oldfield had mixed fortunes, temporarily losing his way as the Priest (editors note – this was actually due to an audience member attempting to film the performance) but recovering to full authority as the Angel of Agony.

The young musicians of the Queen’s Park Sinfonia provided not only sensitive accompaniment but also intensified the drama, the light and shade of the orchestral Introduction being particularly gripping.

end of review

brief notes

Regarded by many, including Elgar himself, as Elgar’s finest choral work, Dream of Gerontius is a setting of the poem by John Henry Newman which follows the imagined journey of a soul through death and beyond, guided by a guardian angel.
It is a wonderfully dramatic and uplifting piece of music, including an exquisitely beautiful setting of the familiar hymn Praise to the Holiest in the Height.

Soloists:
Peter Auty made his recording debut at a very early age, singing Walking in the Air in the soundtrack to the animated film, The Snowman. Aled Jones later made a separate recording of the same song, but it is Peter Auty who is heard in the film. Unsurprisinginly he is now a Tenor with a sumptuous voice and is in demand by Opera companies worldwide.
Heather Shipp frequently sings leading roles with Opera North, ENO and the Royal Opera. You may have seen her singing the part of Phoebe in a concert performance of Yeomen of the Guard in the Proms 2012 (youtube extract). Another of her most recent highly acclaimed roles was that of Carmen in an innovative production of the opera created by Opera North in spring 2011. An interesting interview about that production can be found here.

James Oldfield is a young and rising star. Having made his operatic debut only two years ago he has already been described as ‘terrific’ by Opera Now magazine, and has sung principal parts with Opera North, Garsington Opera, and the Royal Opera House. He has sung as a soloist with the Halle, RPO and LSO in major venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Bridgewater Hall, the Barbican and Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. He is also fairly local – he grew up in Leicester where he was a chorister at the Cathedral, then studied at Trintiy College, Cambridge followed by the Royal College of Music and the Benjamin Britten Opera School.

Handel MESSIAH

Saturday 1st December 2012 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Laurie Ashworth Soprano
James Laing Countertenor
James Geer Tenor
Simon Thorpe Baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

Conductor – Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Start your Christmas season with an evening of inspirational music.
Handel’s magnificent oratorio Messiah tells the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, through many narrative and explanatory extracts from the Bible. This dramatic work features several of the greatest arias and choruses ever written.

This concert comes at the start of Advent, when we are all finally becoming aware that it really isn’t long until Christmas, even though the shops have been anticipating it for months. Come and have an evening to escape from the bustle and let Handel’s glorious music wash over you and renew you.

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS

Wednesday 19th December 2012 7:00pm
Saturday 22nd December 2012 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

Nottingham Harmonic Choir

Organ – John Morehen

Conductor – Richard Laing

THORESBY COLLIERY BAND

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.

Elgar MUSIC MAKERS – 6th April 2013

Saturday 6th April 2013 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Nottingham Classics – The Hallé
ELGAR Music Makers

Sibelius The Bard & Symphony No 2

Conductor Sir Mark Elder
Mezzo soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers

After Hours: (approx. 9:30pm)
Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
Purcell Hear My Prayer
Rütti Requiem excerpts

Review: Nottingham Post Saturday 6 April 2013
Capturing spirit of Elgar proves special
Monday, April 08, 2013 Nottingham Post

It was enough to hear the opening bars of Elgar’s The Music Makers to know that Saturday night’s performance was
going to be something special: an ideal marriage of composer, conductor and performers.

There is no finer Elgar conductor than Sir Mark Elder and both the Hallé and the Nottingham Harmonic
Choir have his great choral works flowing in their veins.

The subtle shading of the choral sound was not only highly responsive to the letter of Elgar’s careful
scoring but also sensitively alive to its spirit.

Whether as ‘dreamers of dreams’ or as ‘the movers and shakers of the world’ the Choir left the audience
in no doubt of music’s power.

Standing in for an indisposed mezzo soloist was Catherine Wyn-Rogers, rich and firm of voice as well as
urgently dramatic, especially in sections in which she had to battle against the full strength of choir and orchestra.

Sibelius’ elegiac tone poem The Bard and his 2nd Symphony made up the rest of the programme, as Sir Mark demonstrated his
unerring sense of the symphony’s architecture.

Review of Concert – Saturday 6 April 2013
by Mike Wheeler Sound and Vision

The more I hear Elgar’s The music makers the more unjustly underrated it seems. Agreed, there are moments that go off the boil somewhat, but they are only moments in a work that can be deeply poignant in the right hands.

Conductor Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra are unquestionably the right hands, and their performance with Nottingham Harmonic Choir conveyed a total belief in the piece. Impassioned playing in the orchestral introduction paved the way for a choral contribution whose sharply focused tone and unflagging energy were hugely impressive. Catherine Wyn-Rogers, standing in at short notice for an indisposed Christine Rice, made an impact right from her first entry, and led Elgar’s tribute to August (‘Nimrod’) Jaeger at the words ‘But on one man’s soul it hath lightened’ in as profoundly moving a way as any I’ve heard.

The concert opened with Sibelius�s The Bard. If ever a work illustrates the ‘less is more” principle, this one surely does – rarely can so few notes have said so much. The music’s spareness and concentration were gripping, and the brief moment in the spotlight for the trumpets and trombones at the end was spine-tingling.

Sibelius�s Second Symphony is often described as his farewell to the big romantic symphony, but Mark Elder�s conducting presented an unexpectedly modernist take on the work, pointing up the fact that it looks forward just as much as back. This was particularly true of the second movement, where the abrupt contrasts of mood were emphasised to the point where dislocation rather than continuity was the dominant tone. The first movement was purposeful, with a finely-judged control of pace; the third had terrific driving energy, offering, again. maximum contrast with the expansive treatment given the trio section.

In the finale Sibelius presented his interpreters with a huge interpretative challenge: after a sweeping transition into the finale the energy level drops almost to a standstill before having to generate even greater excitement a second time. Elder and the Hallé kept a firm grip on the current, maintaining and even surpassing the initial level of excitement the second time round.

Southwell 2013 – Rütti Requiem

Saturday 11th May 2013 7:30pm
Southwell Minster

Rütti Requiem
Finzi Lo the Full Final Sacrifice
Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs
Elgar Serenade For Strings

Southern Sinfonia
Conductor Richard Laing
Soprano April Fredrick
Baritone Angus McPhee
Organ Simon Hogan

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

No official review, but this was an amazing concert

The first half of the concert was familiar to most in the audience and was lovely, as expected, with Finzi,
Elgar and Vaughan Williams music floating effortlessly around the stone columns of the Minster. Angus McPhee
performed with rich expressive power in the Five Mystical Songs.

At the beginning of the second half the orchestra and choir arrived on stage, Richard Laing took his post.
The lights which had been up during the interval were dimmed and the Nave was plunged into the fading natural light –
still just filtering in through the huge west window. All was perfectly still.

Through the gloom a single voice began to float from somewhere unseen, intoning the opening words of the Requiem,
to a hauntingly beautiful melody. The voice, completely unaccompanied, gradually became louder as the soprano soloist,
April Fredrick, walked slowly from beneath the tower and took her place, still singing, in front of the orchestra.

The choir joined the melody, in hushed tones, still completely unaccompanied, as the mellifluous setting of the
Introit’s prayer for light perpetual to shine on the departed, continued rising and falling in volume
and progressing through different keys to its peaceful conclusion.

The vibrant tones of a solo cello repeated fragments of the earlier melody then moved forward into the next movement. The orchestral sound slowly increased in volume and
complexity until the choir entered with the syncopated and impassioned setting of the Kyrie (a plea for mercy).

To do full justice to the work, many paragraphs would be written – there simply is not space here.
It is a wonderfully moving work, with the music eloquently mirroring the meaning of the words. Rütti makes inventive use of physical space, rhythm and harmony. In the setting of Southwell Minster the performance was absolutely staggering.

The Requiem ends much as it begins, the choir having dimmed to a mere murmur, followed by the Soprano’s solo voice slowly vanishing into the distance.
As Rütti explained – we enter and leave this world alone – dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

The awed stillness at the end of the performance, before the applause erupted, indicated that had the performance
been repeated on the Sunday, many would have returned to hear the work for a second time and would have coerced
friends and neighbours to join them.

Rütti Requiem

Carl R�tti is a Swiss composer, specialising in choral and liturgical music. His work is characteristically filled
with soaring melodies, exuberant rhythms and lush harmonies. Inspired by the English choral tradition, as well as by jazz
and blues, his music has been performed across England and America, including at the BBC Proms and the Festival of Nine
Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge. The Rütti Requiem was commissioned by the Bach Choir in 2005
and was first recorded in 2008 with the Southern Sinfonia. It exemplifies the harmonic invention and expressive power that
makes his music unmatched in contemporary choral repertoire. It is a beautifully haunting work, with a virtuosic organ part,
in a totally new style and very well worth hearing. The acoustics of Southwell Minster will be ideal for this work.

Elgar Serenade For Strings

This was one of Elgar’s earliest works, and the first one with which he was reputed to have been reasonably satisfied,
and which gained general popularity. Elgar was himself a string player and teacher. His skill at understanding and weaving
the instruments together is clear. It is still probably his most frequently played work, so should be familiar to many from
hearing it on classical music channels.

Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs

This needs very little introduction as it is frequently performed and justifiably well-loved part of choral repertoire.
It is particularly appropriate for the season around Easter.
It is a setting of five poems by George Herbert for Baritone and choir: Easter (Rise heart Thy Lord is risen…),
I got me flowers, Love bade me welcome, The Call and finally a rousing setting of
Let all the World in every corner sing.

Finzi Lo the Full Final Sacrifice

This may be less familiar, but again is appropriate for Easter and should work well in Southwell Minster.
It was commissioned by Rev. Walter Hussey for an anniversary celebration of the consecration of St Matthew’s Church
in Northampton. The music divides into diverse styles with settings of different stanzas of Finzi’s chosen poems –
some, homophonic, some fugal, some definitively polyphonic with parts weaving and floating effortlessly around each other.

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