In a weekend of celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday, Truro Choral Society was not going to miss the opportunity to contribute, and this summer concert began with probably the finest of all ceremonial pieces – Parry's "I Was Glad", with the eight-part choir plus cathedral organ sending majestic echoes round the vaulting. On a more intimate scale, members of Truro School Chamber Orchestra excelled in Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto, with bubbling high spirits in the outer movements contrasted with the graceful central andante. The solo group — Martha Prindl (violin), Lottie Brenton and Molly Carleston (oboes) and Katie Shaw (piccolo) — were outstanding. I had doubted whether there could be a viable substitute for the specified clarino trumpet, but am pleased to report that the piccolo in all its crazy glory reached even the very back of the West Gallery. And ice creams were available in the interval — a splendid innovation!
Some choral purists dismiss John Rutter's writing as "easy listening" — perhaps rightly in the case of some of the shorter works, but his Requiem is certainly not a soft option for singers in its challenging complexity and contrasts of light and dark. Martin Palmer's direction and the choir's flexibility caught the marvellous transition of the opening, from ominous agitation to the magical "earworm" main melody (once heard, never forgotten).
Luke Bond's sensitive organ playing was a notable feature, as was the contribution of all the instrumentalists – Barbara Degener's cello in "Out of the deep" perfectly mirroring the hushed choral entry. The central Sanctus was radiant with pealing bells — Joseph O'Berry on piano and James Robinson somehow managing to play glockenspiel and timpani simultaneously. The 23rd Psalm setting was a pastoral delight with Tamsin Carleston's oboe obbligato, and Katie Shaw's flute phrasing was perfect, particularly well matched with soprano Cheryl Rosevear in her expressive Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna.
It may be a relatively short work, but this Requiem doesn't grant much rest for the chorus — they have to sing almost continually. They coped heroically with all its demands, building up tension in Agnus Dei, lyrical in Psalm 23, modulating marvellously towards the inevitable reprise of the big tune at the end. Well done to Palmer for such thorough preparation and direction, and huge thanks to TCS for a moving and memorable performance.
- Judith Whitehouse
Beethoven's “Hallelujah Chorus”.... no, not a misprint – he really did write one as the finale of a now neglected oratorio, and Truro Choral Society President Michael Galsworthy had suggested that TCS might perform it, so they did! Augmented by Cornwall Youth Choir and Truro School Chamber Choir (nearly 200 voices altogether), plus the usual splendid orchestra, they gave a rousing start to this mostly Beethoven evening.
TCS has recently made a feature of showcasing outstanding local young musicians, and Truro School sixth-former Ellie Sullivan's performance of Schumann's Abendlied, arranged for oboe and orchestra by musical director Martin Palmer, was an exquisite "song without words" in her last Truro concert before entering the Royal Academy of Music.
Probably the best-known of all symphonies, Beethoven's Fifth, directed by Palmer, ended the first half of the programme in an inspiring performance, from the famous opening chords, via a warmly lyrical slow movement with glorious lower strings, to a spirited Scherzo and triumphant finale – a real emergence into daylight.
Dating from the same period as the Symphony, but inevitably overshadowed by the later Missa Solemnis, Beethoven's Mass in C requires the chorus to sing almost continuously for long sections and express many different moods – devotional in the Kyrie, thrilling in the Gloria, with a concluding Agnus Dei contrasting anxiety and expectation punctuated by lyrical horn calls. A strong solo team – soprano Cheryl Rosevear, alto Shelly Coulter-Smith, tenor Paul Martyn-West and bass Charlie Murray – blended well together, particularly in the Benedictus. Palmer's direction made a good case for a neglected work, and the chorus still had enough energy left at the end to reprise the "Hallelujah" from the start of the evening, to great acclaim from the large audience. A fascinating and most enjoyable evening.
- Judith Whitehouse, West Briton
What is the collective noun for Messiahs? There seem to be a lot of them around at this time of year! This was probably the largest I've heard for some time, with the massed ranks of Truro Choral Society augmented by the choirs of the three local senior schools – over 200 voices in all. Rehearsals must have been fun.
It's always good to welcome back David Webb, and his 'Comfort ye', expressive and judiciously decorated, set the tone for a vigorous interpretation – bass George Humphreys (also currently in Jonathan Miller's production of The Mikado at the Coliseum – such versatility!) gave the heavens a really thorough shaking, and mezzo Felicity Turner's dramatic 'refiner's fire' was equally spirited. Cornish soprano Lydia Mee, in her debut with TCS, was understandably a little hesitant at first, but grew in confidence, her performance culminating with a radiant 'I know that my redeemer liveth'.
Martin Palmer's direction of the large choir produced some fine effects – a sprightly 'For unto us', and a splendid sequence of five vividly contrasted choruses in Part Two, interspersed with Felicity Turner's exquisite 'He was despised' and David Webb's clear narrative passages. The chorus coped well with some brisk speeds – 'Hallelujah' almost too fast – and were rock-solid in their many fugal episodes. As always, great orchestral accompaniment, with the added bonus of harpsichord (Joseph O'Berry) plus chamber organ (Luke Bond, who also sprinted upstairs to the Father Willis for extra volume).
I always moan about items being cut, but appreciate the need – two and a half hours plus interval, otherwise – but Part One really does need to end with a chorus, and it didn't (lose half a star for that!). I always miss the 'middle bit' of 'The trumpet shall sound' – no one ever does it – but what a treat it was to hear George Humphreys and solo trumpet Imogen Hancock. The trumpets were back at the periphery for the final chorus, which sounded simply glorious, with a truly massive crescendo and deceleration at the close that shouldn't have worked but did – 'Amen' to that!
- Judith Whitehouse, West Briton, 2015
Truro Cathedral is a top-notch place for putting on a concert, and when I found out that Verdi's religious masterpiece would be making an appearance in that beautifully vaulted nave, it would have been foolish not to go.
The celli opened the proceedings beautifully, setting the scene with solemn and broad strokes. The choir's following entry was clear and rhythmically crisp, and they came into their own during the ‘te decet hymnus' passage – the flowing Renaissance-inspired counterpoint flowed and was musically sensitive. The first appearance of the soloists was strong, but it was the entry of the Soprano and Mezzo that really stood out – beautiful, effortless singing that was an absolute delight for the ears. The first time that all of the musical forces came together, the balance of the sound was very good. It must be said that the musical balance was brilliant throughout, with no musical force needing to fight for dominance, making for a very enjoyable listening experience.
The opening of the Dies Irae, perhaps the most famous in the classical repertoire next to that of Mozart in his own setting of the Requiem Mass (given how Verdi went about preparing to compose his score, it's easy to see where some of his fire came from!), was violent, furious, and passionate – fantastic! Not only that, but whenever the entry material came back, it gained more life and energy, avoiding completely the danger of deflating. Among the other highlights of the Dies Irae section (one of the longest, as Verdi splits it into 10 movements) were the brass fanfare, which was sonorous yet balanced, and the Liber Scriptus, a solo movement for the Mezzo and orchestra with choral accompaniment. Mezzo soprano Susanna Spicer's performance was nothing short of world class, and reminded me why that is one of my favourite oratorio movements both to sing and listen to.
Throughout the rest of the work, the choir sang with energy, emotion and a high level of sophistication and musical sensitivity, supported throughout by a very strong orchestra. Conductor Martin Palmer was multi-faceted in his approach – minimalistic, allowing the music to breathe and speak for itself, as well as being active and driven enough to spur the choir and orchestra on to a brilliant performance. All of those involved should be very proud, and I look forward to the next concert.
- Jake Barlow, classical musician and writer