REVIEW: Angmering Chorale’s 2017 Autumn Concert in Arundel Cathedral

George Jones
George Jones

Angmering Chorale’s 2017 Autumn Concert in Arundel Cathedral, entitled European Masterpieces, was rather different from their previous offerings in that it included, at a time when festive Christmas Lights are just being lit, a work that was dedicated to Mary’s anguish at the death of her Beloved Son at the Crucifixion.

That said, George Jones and the Chorale never fail to delight us with their choice of music, especially when joined by professional soloists and the talented Sinfonia of Arun led by Robin Morrish. Soloists for the evening were Australians Anita Watson (soprano) and Catherine Carby with home-produced Edward Ross (tenor) and Jihoon Kim (bass) who is Korean by birth.

Rossini’s Stabat Mater was paired with John Rutter’s majestic Gloria, a work which was written some 150 years later and, in between, we were able to enjoy Sibelius’s popular tone poem, Finlandia

The ten sections of Stabat Mater were beautifully delivered and a well-rehearsed chorus coped well with the intricacies of a work which, as one might expect, displayed many facets of the composer’s operatic style. The soloists, chorus and orchestra blended well throughout this performance and, amongst the highlights were Ross’s effective rendition of the very operatic Cujus Animam and the entire quartet’s exquisitely balanced a cappella singing in Quando Corpus. Kim’s rich bass tones, ably supported by the chorus, were truly delightful in Eia Mater and the fugal finale, In Sempiterna Saecula was reminiscent of J S Bach drawing fine singing and playing from everyone.

Rutter’s Gloria, with its bold fanfares, requires a larger brass section and more percussion than the Rossini and, with an assembly of four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba and timpani, why not make full use of these mighty resources? Finlandia could hardly be a better choice as it not only utilised them to the full but also gave the Sinfonia a chance to shine and, perhaps more importantly, the singers a well-earned break before a demanding finale. We enjoyed a splendid performance which made optimal use of the Cathedral’s acoustic.

The Gloria, in three movements, was commissioned by an American in 1974 and, like so many aspects of that country, is big and powerful, although its central section is much quieter and more restrained. Watson’s soaring soprano coped magnificently with this gentler section and she was very ably supported by the choir’s own Katrina O’Neill (soprano) and Jane Hattersley (alto). The other two movements, particularly the third, were full of regal splendour and thus ended another memorable evening, excellently executed as always.

Jim Hurdwell