Summer Concert 2023
I was very happy to attend this concert given at Wymondham Abbey in a programme of Mozart. It began with the Vesperae solemnes de confessore which the choir sang with obvious relish. Although not on the same inspirational level as the Requiem, there was much to enjoy.
The choir now back to nearly full strength under the direction of Claire Dixon sang most attentively with wonderful use of dynamics and the ends of phrases and sections were extremely crisply executed. A good quartet of soloists had been assembled, who worked well when singing together. Tess Pearson (soprano) shone and her luxurious Laudate Dominum was a highlight. She and alto Leonora Dawson-Bowling blended well. An orchestra of 20 had been assembled who performed well, but at times the lower strings, trombones and timpani were too prominent and slightly unbalanced the sound.
After the interval we had a treat in store. The Requiem remains, although unfinished, one of his absolute masterpieces. Here the choir really came into their own and produced page after page of confident great sound with good attention to detail regarding the mood and sound of each section.
Leonora Dawson-Bowling (alto) made the most of her opportunities and produced some lovely phrases. Tenor Lawrence Olsworth-Peter had some good soft singing in his armoury and James Priest (bass) sang with a pleasing tone but lacked the sonority or low range required for his solo.
The packed audience received the concert most enthusiastically and it’s good to see the Choral Society going from strength to strength.
Music Director, Harleston Choral Society
Music Director, Carolean Chorus
Music Director, Voices2Go
Spring Concert 2023
I was very pleased to be able to attend the concert on Saturday night in Attleborough. It was especially pleasing to see the choir numbers have risen since I last saw a performance a year ago.
The first half was a rare treat – Messa di Gloria by a young Puccini composed in 1880. He never published a full score of this and he reused several themes for some of his operas – Manon Lescaut and Edgar. It’s a challenging dramatic work, where much of his love for Verdi is evident.
The choir rose to this challenge, delivering a spirited lively performance. Unlike most of the choral repertoire it requires a more operatic approach and the extra sopranos and tenors gave very secure top notes and the choir generally seemed to relish singing a different type of work. Tenor William Falconer provided a sensitive reading of his solo “Gratias agimus tibi” and I was most impressed with the Bass soloist, Kevin Ward, for singing with great poise and nobility. Rob Goodrich, on the piano, provided terrific support and virtuoso playing.
After the interval we heard a nuanced performance of Faure Requiem. “Requiem Aeternam” set the scene for a highly charged reading of the score. Claire Dixon is to be congratulated for her control of the choir’s dynamics – so important in this work as Faure was most specific. William Falconer returned to deliver the moving Hostias and Libera Me (although I would have preferred a baritone for this). Outstanding was the young Soprano, Rosemary Zhang in her “Pie Jesu” solo. I was fortunate to have heard her recently as Belinda in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and was again so impressed by her breath control, developing voice and her commitment to engaging with the audience. There were so many highlights for the choir – the “Agnus Dei” was especially well done. In a flash it was all over and I, and many others I’m sure, could have heard it all again!
MD Harleston Choral Society
Winter Concert 2022
The choir returned to the lovely surroundings of St. Mary’s church Attleborough for their winter concert. The main work was contemporary composer Bob Chilcott’s Christmas Oratorio, a very appealing narrative of the birth of Christ based on St. Luke’s gospel. The central focus of the oratorio was the Evangelist. This substantial role was sung by fine tenor William Falconer, a delightful soloist who held the attention of the audience, his voice ringing through the church. He was accompanied by flautist Grace Duthie who added much to the appeal of the performance. A highlight after the interval was Grace playing Debussy’s Syrinx, a lovely addition to the programme.
The choir sang the sometimes demanding choruses with confidence and clear diction. Sadly the audience was not able to enjoy soprano Karen Harries’ beautiful singing again as she was unwell but the sopranos are to be highly commended for learning her challenging part at short notice, performing with evident joy and great confidence. Also to be commended was bass Kevin Ward, a member of the choir who played a significant part in the performance.
A festive selection of music followed the interval, including two carols, an opportunity for the audience to join the choir. Kodaly’s arrangement of Veni, veni Emmanuel, Britten’s joyful Jubilate Deo and Goodall’s Love Divine were sung by the choir with energy and enjoyment.
The accompanist for the concert was pianist Katie Vaughan who played with great sensitivity, skilfully supporting the singers. It was a real pleasure to listen to her.
Claire Dixon is to be congratulated for achieving such a successful concert after a term interrupted by absences due to illness. It is encouraging that new members are joining the choir. The concert showed again that the choir is continuing to perform at the high standard we have come to expect from them. I look forward very much to their next concert on March 18th.
Sarah Jackson December 2022
Summer Concert 2022
We were welcomed to lovely St. Mary’s church Attleborough for the choir’s delightful summer concert conducted by Claire Dixon. The programme of folk music and spirituals was an unusual choice for them but an appropriate one to celebrate with joy the return of more of the singers and recovery from the two year pause in their performances.
A cheerful medley of folk songs began the evening with a pleasing accompaniment on the piano from Rob Goodrich. What followed was a lovely selection of folk music: first, two contrasting songs by Aaron Copland, then four arranged by John Ireland, David Willcocks, Edward Bairstow and Gustav Holst. ‘The dark eyed sailor’, The spring time of the year’ and ‘Just as the tide was flowing’, complex and challenging songs, were next. Their composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year. The choir is to be congratulated for their attention to detail, their clear diction and the dynamics which highlighted the meaning of the songs. Once more, Rob Goodrich provided excellent accompaniment.
After this mezzo soprano Karen Harries performed her choice of three glorious songs with Rob Goodrich accompanying on the piano: Vaughan Williams’ Silent Noon’, Reynaldo Hahn’s ‘A Chloris’ and Edvard Grieg’s ‘Jeg Elsker Dig’. There was much appreciation from the audience for her beautiful singing which resounded in the excellent acoustic of the church.
Finally Michael Tippett’s Spirituals from ‘A Child of our Time’ sung with great feeling by the choir with Karen Harries as soloist, her voice soaring effortlessly above the choir. This provided a moving finale to the concert which was notable for the confidence of the well balanced sections of the choir.
Warm congratulations are due to Musical Director Claire Dixon who prepared the singers over a period when illness was causing disruption to the rehearsals. The concert was a great credit to her. There is no doubt that the choir’s reputation is intact and that they will continue to perform at the high standard audiences have come to expect from them. Bravo!
Sarah Jackson July 2022
Spring Concert 2022
I was delighted to have attended this concert last Saturday. The programme began with a spirited interpretation of Haydn’s Aus dem dasnklied zu Gott. This was followed by Pergolesi/Durante Magnificat. I was struck particularly by the use of dynamics throughout, which added an extra dimension to the pieces. There followed a short pause, which aptly included a reflection for all of us on the situation in Ukraine.
The second half of the concert was mostly given over to John Rutter’s Requiem. Given the choir had such a short rehearsal period I was very impressed with the skilful performance, with special mention to the accompanist Rob Goodrich, who besides giving splendid accompaniment and support throughout somehow managed to also provide the cello and oboe solos! Huge credit to the society’s music director, Claire Dixon, for achieving such a good sound from the choir, even though it was understandably currently smaller than usual. Special mention must be made for the lovely sound the altos created. The choir has an association with the music of American composer Dan Forrest so it was most appropriate the concert concluded with his And can it be? which contains some gorgeous harmonies, most beautifully realised.
It’s so wonderful to again be able to experience live music, and the audience was most appreciative. I for one am looking forward very much to the summer concert!
Winter concert 2019
This thrilling concert was highly praised. The choir excelled in their performance given in the beautiful Attleborough church, conducted by Claire Dixon. There was the attention to detail which we have come to expect from them. Music by J. S. Bach, Charpentier, Berlioz, Handel and Parsons provided a varied and uplifting first half of the concert. Particularly notable was the chorus from Bach’s Cantata 140 Zion hears the watchmen’s voices sung by the tenor and bass sections, an unusually large number of men singers which the choir should feel proud of. There were lovely contrasts: Berlioz’ The Shepherds’ farewell, movements from Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit pour Nöel, Robert Parsons’ Ave Maria sung by a smaller section of the choir. The first half ended with Handel’s For unto us a Child is born and Hallelujah from Messiah, sung with great confidence, interesting dynamics and obvious enjoyment.
Mezzo soprano soloist Karen Harries Allen sang four well chosen solos; before the interval Tchaikovsky’s None but the lonely heart sung in Russian and Handel’s ravishing Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo. Her lovely rich voice was perfect for the main work in the second half of the concert when she also sang American composer Ned Rorem’s Love and Summertime from Porgy and Bess.
After the interval the choir sang gorgeous And can it be, by American composer Dan Forrest. Members of the choir performed his Jubilate Deo in Cadogan Hall in June with choirs from the US where they were privileged to meet the composer.
The choir’s performance of John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit proved to be a magnificent treat. The soloist blended so well with the choir in the composer’s adaptation of the well known spirituals. The choir was equally at home with the sensitive piano passages and with the power of When the Saints go marching in. Throughout the concert Rob Goodrich provided expert accompaniment but here his playing was brilliant. He is to be warmly congratulated. The choir is fortunate to have such a gifted accompanist.
Very warm congratulations are of course due to Claire Dixon for her excellent choice of programme and the very high standard her choir attained once again. It is difficult to see how the performance could have been improved. It was a wonderful prelude to Christmas.
Summer concert 2019
The Choral Society’s summer concert in the splendid surroundings of Wymondham Abbey was unusual and quite remarkable. The programme began with a delightful Welsh hymn tune, Rhosymedre, played on the Abbey’s impressive organ by director of Music there, Rob Goodrich. There followed three enjoyable solos where he accompanied on the piano fine baritone Alistair Bamford: Deep River, the well known spiritual arranged by Matthew Woolhouse who is from a local family; Down by the Sally Gardens with words by W.B.Yeats: and The Vagabond, a much loved song by Vaughan Williams.
Following this delightful beginning the choir sang a beautiful new mass, Missa beati Virginis Mariae, by Michal Cayton. It was the second performance of this moving work, sung with sensitivity by the choir with a subtle and skilfully written accompaniment on the organ. Soprano Nicola Wydenbach, once more welcomed to Wymondham, joined the choir, her stunning voice soaring through the Abbey.
After the interval we were treated to more solos by Alistair Bamford, with Rob Goodrich on the piano. The excellent programme notes explained the background to the songs, Stop all the Clocks by composer Ronald Senator and Twinkle twinkle little star by Richard Rodney Bennett. It was a great pleasure to hear these unusual compositions so well sung.
The choir excelled in two of Morten Lauridsen’s gorgeous Chansons des Roses. The concert concluded with Vaughan Williams’ stirring Benedicite, the choir paying close attention to detail and producing a full exuberant sound with delicate piano passages in between. Soloist Nicola Wydenbach’s beautiful voice was again heard soaring above the soprano line.
Once again Claire Dixon is to be warmly congratulated on the performance. Her choir maintains a high standard and sings with sensitivity and obvious enjoyment. I hear that the singers who sang in Cadogan Hall London this June enjoyed the privilege of performing Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo with outstanding American choirs. The invitations WCS receives to join prestigious performances are well deserved.
Spring concert 2019
The Choral Society’s spring concert was a thrilling evening in the magnificent setting of Wymondham Abbey. The concert began with three movements from Bruckner’s powerful Mass in E Minor, starting with a tranquil Kyrie and finishing with the often lively Credo, performed with great confidence and attention to detail by the choir. The tuneful Gloria was a pleasing contrast between the two. There were moments throughout of great feeling, particularly when the large choir sang pianissimo passages.
Following this stirring opening the choir sang two moving short pieces by Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer residing in New York: Northern Lights, a tribute to the Lights seen over a wintry lake and Ubi Caritas, which had a lovely piano accompaniment played by Rob Goodrich.
After the interval a major highlight of the evening was enjoying four excellent soloists in Bob Chilcott’s St. John Passion. Tenor Daniel Bartlette, in the role of Evangelist, was an outstanding soloist singing with great clarity of diction and fine tone. In the first part of the concert excellent soprano, Danni O’Neill, sang the beautiful song Daphne from William Walton’s Façade, a treat for the audience. She also took the role of the woman in St. John Passion, a delightful performance. Another very fine soloist baritone Dhilan Gnanadurai in the role of Pilate provided powerful singing and bass James Connolly who is in the early stages of his singing career was an excellent Jesus. There were many compliments from the audience and choir for these singers.
Cellist Maja Passchier added another dimension to the performance with her lovely, sensitive playing. The choir was a strong Chorus and sang the beautiful chorales with enjoyment and passion.
Rob Goodrich is to be warmly congratulated for his accompaniment throughout the concert, often very demanding. This was particularly noticeable in the St. John Passion where his playing matched the singing so well.
Congratulations are due again to Claire Dixon for another memorable concert which allowed her choir to show its ability to perform demanding works with great feeling and sensitivity. I was told that there had been a period of difficult rehearsals affected by absence due to illness. The concert was a splendid achievement and it is no surprise to me that they have been invited to Cadogan Hall London this June and Leipzig in 2020.
19th April 2019
Christmas Concert 2018
As in previous years the Choral Society’s December concert was held in the beautiful church of St. Mary’s, Attleborough. Three carols were included, one of which was sung as a joyful finale by the choir, a delightful prelude to the season.
I was told that the glorious Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart was sung at the start of the concert because the first part was being filmed for a BBC programme.
The main work before the interval was Bach’s Mass in G Major BWV 236, one of the composer’s Lutheran masses which, like the Magnificat, is known to be extremely difficult to perform. Rehearsals must have been challenging. The work includes many high notes which put extra pressure on singers. One can only admire those who performed such a work so well during the composer’s lifetime.
After a hesitant start the complex Kyrie was sung with some confidence. The dense texture of this section is challenging for those in the audience who are unfamiliar with the work. Through the whole performance recurring themes were sung with conviction, notably in the rousing final Cum Sancto Spiritu where it was evident that the members of the choir were enjoying themselves. Worthy also of a mention was the soprano and alto duet in the Domine Deus, beautifully sung. This choir usually produces an almost faultless performance. There were flaws in places but it is a credit to the singers and conductor that they attained a generally pleasing standard throughout.
During the second part of the concert the audience was treated to Handel solos performed by Fred Stanford, a fine tenor from Norwich Cathedral, who also sang the difficult Quoniam in the mass. The choir sang very beautiful short pieces by Brahms, Bruckner, Poulenc, Rachmaninov and Rheinberger. These were sung with the attention to detail which we have come to expect from the Choral Society. Rachmaninov Bogoroditsye Dyevo, unaccompanied, was one of the highlights.
Much credit is due to Robert Goodrich, Director of Music at Wymondham Abbey, for his excellent organ accompaniment throughout the concert and most particularly for the mass where the organ score was very demanding.
Claire Dixon is to be congratulated for another enjoyable concert and for including a work which would stretch her singers, one which would be demanding for the most accomplished choirs. I was told that they have been invited to sing in a concert of music by North American composers in Cadogan Hall London next June. Like the invitation to sing in Carnegie it is a huge compliment to their conductor.
14th December 2018
Summer concert 2018
This concert of Purcell’s King Arthur in Wymondham’s magnificent Abbey was truly outstanding in every way. It is surprising that a work so tuneful and thrilling is rarely performed. Excellent programme notes included the plot of the play by Dryden which the composer set so skilfully to music, showing how the action of the drama blended with the music.
The brilliant Brook Street Band, Rachel Harris first violin, Tatty Theo cello and Carolyn Gibley harpsichord with a well chosen selection of other instruments, were the remarkable chamber orchestra. Their playing exactly suited the moods of the different scenes, particularly so in an astonishing Frost scene which took one’s breath away. Throughout the concert they played to perfection. We are highly privileged to see them here in Wymondham.
Four superb soloists took the different characters in the drama. The acoustic of the building suited the strong, vibrant singing of Charlotte Ashley and Laura Morgan, sopranos, Daniel Joy tenor and bass Rupert Reid. Their voices blended beautifully for the duets. It was a privilege and a delight to listen to them. It is difficult to single out any particular scene, so marvellous was their performance.
The choir possibly produced their best performance I have heard. There were compliments from the audience and professionals alike. They were confident, powerful, clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves. One soloist said that they were full of vocal character. There were plenty of dramatic touches and attention to the subtle meaning of the text. The folk song with Daniel Joy was one unexpected highlight, rowdy and with a demonstration of national pride at the end.
The conductor Claire Dixon is to be very warmly congratulated. This is indeed a choir worthy of an invitation to perform in Carnegie Hall.
Spring concert 2018
A delightful evening of sacred music in Wymondham Abbey, the Choral Society’s spring concert, was conducted by Claire Dixon and accompanied by Director of Music at the Abbey, Robert Goodrich. Their performance began with Bob Chilcott’s Requiem which was probably new to most of the audience. It is a work of beautiful harmonies and subtle contrasts. The choir sang with great confidence and close attention to dynamics and phrasing. The effect was powerful, often very moving. Two very fine soloists, soprano Nicola Wydenbach and tenor Matthew Pochin, added a thrilling dimension to the work, their voices ringing through the building with its excellent acoustic.
Another contemporary and more familiar composer, Karl Jenkins, was the main focus of the concert after the interval. A selection from his sacred works Stabat Mater, The Armed Man and Requiem was chosen, performed with great feeling and attention to detail. The choir has been commended for the balance between the four sections and confident singing which has become very noticeable.
We were delighted that the programme included solo pieces. Nicola Wydenbach sang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum and Pie Jesu from Gabriel Faurés Requiem, her lovely voice soaring through the abbey. Matthew Pochin’s choice was two powerful songs by Stanford, A Song of Peace and A Song of Wisdom. Sadly, these are little known and rarely performed. It was a real privilege to hear these singers perform their chosen pieces.
Robert Goodrich is to be highly commended for his playing throughout the concert on the piano and also the magnificent Abbey organ for the solos. This was a demanding concert with some very difficult passages.
Claire Dixon has taken the choir to new heights and achieved a high standard once more. I am looking forward very much to Purcell’s King Arthur in July.
26th March 2018
Christmas Concert 2017
The audience was welcomed to floodlit St. Mary’s Church Attleborough on a bitterly cold December evening. They were treated to a concert of festive music conducted by Clare Dixon, a delightful prelude to Christmas. The acoustic of this ancient building was perfect for the occasion.
The concert began with a lively solo from organist Robert Goodrich which set a cheerful atmosphere. Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols followed, one of the composer’s most popular works which celebrates the coming of Christ. Britten had become interested in composing for the harp which forms a marvellous accompaniment to this work. The choir excelled, their performance ranging from great energy in Deo Gracias to tenderness in There is no Rose with close attention to dynamics and detail. They were joined by outstanding harpist Anna Quiroga.
The hugely enjoyable highlight of the concert was Marcel Samuel Rousseau’s Variations Pastorales sur un vieux Noël which the talented harpist played during the second half. The piece began with a familiar Christmas theme and developed into stunning variations. Anna played with an ease and grace which charmed the audience. She is to be very warmly congratulated.
After the interval a selection of carols, some familiar some unusual, formed the rest of the concert. Robert Goodrich was the excellent accompanist. Composers included Herbert Howells, John Rutter, Peter Warlock and Vaughan Williams. Claire Dixon is to be congratulated on her choice. Again the choir sang with much attention to detail, particularly dynamics. Their performance throughout the evening was a huge credit to their conductor.
11th December 2017
Summer concert 2017
In the Abbey the Wymondham Choral Society under Claire Dixon made its contribution to the town’s fortnight-long festival with a lively performance of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast.
Depicting the great conqueror’s celebrations after defeating Persia, the oratorio evokes a great variety of moods.
First setting the scene, tenor Daniel Joy, like soprano Catherine May, then convincingly caught the spirit of the lively sequence of changing emotions but baritone Andrew McWilliams seemed rather too restrained in his famous show-piece aria.
Led by Madeleine Pickering and bringing characteristic instrumental colour to the climaxes, The Amadeus Orchestra was always alert and bright-toned as it accompanied the soloists and the chorus. Its sixty voices came in again and again to echo the warrior’s praise of wine, his love for the fair Thais and the remorse that sometimes haunted him.
Finally came the resonant conclusion with all the singers praising Cecilia, the patron saint of music.
Eastern Daily Press
Carnegie Hall 2017
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY)
Brahms’ Requiem in Review
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International
Jonathan Griffith, DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor
Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY May 28th 2017
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) continued its Memorial Day weekend extravaganza with an all-Brahms program led by its artistic director and principal conductor, the estimable Jonathan Griffith. Although Ein deutsches Requiem can stand alone as a whole program, Maestro Griffith preceded it with a suitably moody account of the Tragic Overture, one that showcased the depth of the strings’ tone beautifully.
Then the massed international choir (288 by my estimate) took the stage for the main event, the consoling “humanist” (non-liturgical) Requiem Brahms composed, at least partly prompted by the death of his mother. Maestro Griffith gave a very spacious rendition of the lyrical movements, not leaving any shaping unexplored. Paradoxically, he drove the fugal sections (important portions of movements two, three, and six) quite briskly, causing a loss of some choral clarity and even a few coordination mishaps between choir and orchestra. Only the benevolent but tyrannical precision of a Robert Shaw, and more rehearsal time, could have solved that issue. Although control of pitch in the softer sections was tentative, the choral sound was thrilling at the louder dynamic levels.
So seductive is the “surface layer” of the Requiem that we can easily forget just how “constructed” the piece is: motivic unity among all movements, arch form, symmetry, and massive Bach-inspired fugues. Brahms really poured all his heart AND mind into this, his longest work by far. There is a certain “churning” of the composer’s mind that then opens into worlds of ineffable repose. The orchestral playing was great, with contrapuntal answering between parts heard in all its mellow clarity, and nice work from all the winds too (so often treacherous)—that I was able to hear this is a testament to the quality of this rendition.
The soloists were both very good, with Andrew McLaughlin delivering emphatic accounts of his, dramatically involved and with vivid diction. Probably one of the hardest things any soprano has to do is to sit still on stage for thirty-eight minutes through the first four movements and then rise and deliver one of the most difficult solos in the oratorio repertoire. Claire Kuttler has a voice larger than one is accustomed to hearing in this work, but it soared beautifully out into Carnegie Hall, though at times she appeared to be having breath difficulty. I did enjoy the fullness of her reading, at times even impetuous—it contrasted with the usual “ethereal” approach.
This Requiem is just the cure for our troubling time that seems to abound in bad news. Well done!
Spring concert 2017
This was a concert in Wymondham Abbey where the singers of Wymondham Choral Society were once more at their best. Conducted by Claire Dixon and accompanied by Rob Goodrich on the organ, the performance began with Stainer’s Crucifixion. Audience reactions to the work itself are always mixed but the choir sang with great feeling, making the most of the dynamics which highlighted poignant and stirring passages of the text. Claire Dixon had complete control of the large choir which moved from pianissimo to forte with close attention to detail. Large tenor and bass sections ensured that the choir was well balanced. Matthew Pochin, tenor, and Dhilan Gnanadurai, baritone, were the fine soloists, their duet in particular being one of the highlights.
After the interval when everyone enjoyed the new facilities of this magnificent building we were treated to Howard Goodall’s Requiem, Eternal Light. The small orchestra of strings, keyboard and piano were the instruments recommended by the composer. The tenor and bass were joined by soprano, Nicola Wydenbach, whose lovely voice soared through the Abbey.
The work is a wonderful mixture of poetry, passages from The Bible, text from the Requiem Mass and a lovely hymn. The choir sang this very demanding work confidently, with great energy, particularly noticeable in the fast staccato passages in Latin taken from Revelation. Howard Goodall composed the Requiem to console the bereaved, to comfort them in their pain. Audience members were sometimes moved to tears by the combination of the powerful music and emotional intensity of the text.
A member of the choir told me that she regretted not being able to perform Goodall’s work in New York at the end of May. (The concert was cancelled and the singers offered Brahms’ Requiem instead.) I can understand her feeling. This was an astonishing finish to a most enjoyable evening.
3rd April 2017
Christmas concert 2016
The ancient church of St. Mary’s in Attleborough was the magical setting for Wymondham Choral Society’s Christmas concert, conducted by Clare Dixon and accompanied by Rob Goodrich. Hannah Long soprano and Sarah Parkinson mezzo soprano were the delightful soloists for the evening.
Vivaldi’s tuneful Gloria was the opening work, the choir singing with energy and great attention to detail. This provided an excellent start to an excellent concert. A contrast to the stirring Vivaldi, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music followed. This moving and beautiful short work, based on a text from The Merchant of Venice in praise of music, was sung with great feeling. Katie Schutte, a talented young violinist, added much to the harmonious performance.
For the second half of the concert the audience was treated to a marvellous selection of carols, some rousing, some delicate, many of them unfamiliar. The composers included J.S. Bach, Berlioz and Kodaly. The choir sang with professionalism and confidence. Tubular bells were heard, notably in Ding Dong Merrily on High, an arrangement by Goodrich and Stark, performed with huge enjoyment. It was an added delight to hear the soloists singing two carols as solos. Altogether this was a most heartwarming prelude to Christmas.
The concert was a great credit to the conductor, Claire Dixon, who maintains a very high standard and provided a thrilling evening of music. Members of the choir will be singing Brahms’ Requiem in Carnegie Hall New York next May. Their invitation to perform there is an honour for the choir and for the local community, well deserved.
12th December 2016
Summer Concert 2016
Wymondham Abbey was the lovely summer setting for the Choral Society’s July concert with their conductor Claire Dixon. The programme was varied and delightful, beginning with Brahms Liebeslieder, the composer’s Love Song Waltzes. This was a tuneful and appealing collection, probably composed for small groups singing in private houses and now usually performed as a choral work, sung with enjoyment and feeling by the choir. The solo section, sung by outstanding soprano Charlotte Ashley, was a delight. Tom Primrose and William Falconer playing on one piano were the excellent accompanists.
Two very different and enchanting songs followed, Verborgenheit and Elfenlied – Seclusion and Elf Song – by Hugo Wolf, sung superbly by Charlotte Ashley with Tom Primrose as her excellent accompanist. Rupert Reid, a fine bass-baritone, chose three songs from Schubert’s Winterreise: Gute nacht, Die Wetterfahne and Der Leiermann. His dramatic, melodious singing was accompanied with great sensitivity by Tom Primrose, the two working in absolute harmony. The result was stunning. The next item, Tom Primrose’s piano solo Intermezzo Op.118, No.2 in A Major by Brahms was a remarkable performance, full of passion and meaning, one of the main highlights of the evening.
After the interval the two soloists joined the choir for A German Requiem, the version composed by Brahms for two pianists on one piano. Sung in German, this was a truly magnificent performance, full of drama and feeling. We were treated to more marvellous singing from Charlotte Ashley and Rupert Reid. The accompaniment was first class, the piano in perfect accord with the choir and Claire Dixon’s interpretation. Brahms’ challenging and difficult score was sung with confidence by the choir. Attention to dynamics from the softest whisper to fortissimo sometimes had an overwhelming effect. When the concert finished there was a profound silence before strong appreciation from the audience of all the performers. It is no great surprise that this choir has been invited to sing in a concert in the Lincoln Center New York next May.
17th July 2016
Please note that the concert in New York is now Brahms Requiem in Carnegie Hall.
Spring concert 2016
It was enterprising of Wymondham Choral Society to choose Handel’s Theodora for their spring concert. His penultimate oratorio, with an English libretto by Thomas Morell, its tragic story of the martyrdom of the Christian Theodora by the Romans was not well received, and even now, is not frequently heard.
However, Saturday’s performance did much to justify a work whose combination of both dramatic and serene music proved very effective.
A fine team of soloists blended well and sang in true Handelian style. Stepping in at short notice for an indisposed Nicola Wydenbach, Catherine May sang the title role radiantly with great sensitivity, and counter-tenor Jake Barlow was equally fine as Didymus, the Roman officer who becomes her fellow martyr. The fine bass voice of Peter Willcock made an authoritative Valens, tenor Matthew Pochin was an excellent Septimius, and Karen Harries a mellow-voiced Irene.
The choir sang admirably, with clear diction, though conductor Claire Dixon might have emphasised the dramatic moments to greater effect, and there was some superb playing by the period instrument Brook Street Band, expertly led from the violin by Farren Scott.
Eastern Daily Press
April 19th 2016
Christmas concert 2015
We were welcomed back to an atmospheric Wymondham Abbey after its refurbishment for Wymondham Choral Society’s Christmas concert conducted by Claire Dixon. It was a delight to experience the beautifully designed new facilities in the extension which are most impressive.
The choir was joined for three baroque works by a chamber orchestra. Two trumpets heralded the beginning of Purcell’s ‘Te Deum’, a stirring start to the concert. This thrilling work was sung with confidence by the choir and a well balanced semi-chorus. Vivaldi’s lively ‘Magnificat’ followed, again beautifully performed by the choir. They are to be commended for their fine sound and clear diction throughout the concert. They sang Vivaldi with great rhythmic energy and an impressive range of dynamic colour, accompanied once more by the orchestra.
For the Christmas music the choir was expertly accompanied by Robert Goodrich on the piano and the Abbey’s fine organ. He climbed nimbly to and from the organ loft. Robert also played his own arrangement of ‘Away in a Manger’ and accompanied Katie Schutte for ‘Meditation’ by Jules Massenet, a truly outstanding performance from the talented young violinist.
After an enjoyable interval we were treated to Gabrieli’s ‘Jubilate Deo’ for a six part choir. This work is a challenge for any choir and was sung with great energy and confidence. A pleasing selection of carols, including some unusual arrangements, ended the concert, the audience joining the choir in singing two familiar ones. The fine acoustic of the Abbey was ringing with the sound of this lovely choir, a real credit to their conductor.
I’m already looking forward to the Society’s Spring Concert on April 16th in the Abbey when they will perform Handel’s wonderful ‘Theodora’ with The Brook Street Band, definitely a concert not to be missed!
Summer concert 2015
For their summer concert in Attleborough church the Wymondham Choral
Society chose a recent work by the well known composer Howard Goodall, ‘Every Purpose under the Heaven’. This beautiful work which includes ten passages from The King James Bible was first performed in Westminster Abbey for the 400th anniversary of the Bible’s publication. The music had a powerful effect, rhythmic and often moving. Close attention to dynamics, from a near whisper to great volume which filled the church, made for a thrilling start to the concert.
Two soloists, mezzo soprano Karen Harries and tenor Stephen Miles, added much to the first half of the concert. After the interval we were treated to three solos from each of them, a highlight of the evening. ‘Stranger in Paradise’, ‘With a song in my heart’ and ‘All the things you are’ were the seductive songs chosen by the fine tenor, Stephen Miles. ‘Bali Hai’, ‘Summertime’ and Cole Porter’s ‘The Physician’ were beautifully sung by the wonderful mezzo Karen Harries.
Included in the hugely enjoyable medley of twelve well known songs performed in the second half of the evening were ‘I got rhythm’, ‘Blue Moon’, ‘S’wonderful’ and ‘Over the rainbow’, sung with professionalism by the choir. The difficult harmonies sung with absolute confidence and the choir’s evident enjoyment were a great credit to their conductor Claire Dixon.
Throughout the concert Robert Goodrich played an accompaniment which was truly outstanding, particularly in the second half of the concert where he and the soloists were as one. Usually an organist, Robert played as if this music were a natural element for him. Much credit is due to him, to Claire Dixon the excellent conductor and to the singers for a concert which was inspiring and a refreshing change from the usual choral repertoire, an evening to be remembered.
Spring concert 2015
The Wymondham Choral Society and the Wymondham Chamber Orchestra performed music by Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, together with the Requiem by the East Anglian composer Robert Goodrich, who also conducted.
They began with a chorus, Insanae et Vanae Curae, from a little known cantata by Haydn, Ritorno di Tobia, admirably sung, if not quite projecting the energy the music requires. More familiar territory next with two excerpts from Mozart’s Vespers, a fine Ave Verum Corpus and a radiant account of Laudate Dominum by soprano Christina Johnston.
In Schubert’s early Mass in G, the choir sang with warmth and musicality, though the comparatively large forces tended to overwhelm the excellent strings, while the three soloists, Christina Johnston, tenor Daniel Bartlette and Dilhan Gnanadurai were excellent.
This second performance of Robert Goodrich’s Requiem contained an additional recordare and lacrimosa for baritone, making it the first complete performance. It is an immediately accessible and attractive work, the scoring for strings, three saxophones and organ adding a subtle texture to the music when exploited.
The fine, if not exceptionally demanding, choral writing was beautifully realised by the choir, though Goodrich’s best music is reserved for the soloists: a quirkily original Kyrie, brilliantly done by mezzo soprano Chantal Clelland, Gnanadurai’s fine Recordare, Johnstone’s sublime Pie Jesu and Bartlette’s superb Libera Me.
Eastern Daily Press
Christmas concert 2014
Floodlit St. Mary’s church, Attleborough, welcomed us on a frosty evening for Wymondham Choral Society’s Christmas concert conducted by Claire Dixon. We were treated to a varied programme of delightful seasonal music. A selection of short pieces of European sacred music formed the first part of the evening. These were wonderful. Often unaccompanied, the choir performed with great feeling, close attention to dynamics forming moving contrasts. Rheinberger’s ‘Abendlied’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘Verleih uns Frieden’ were especially moving. It was pleasing to hear Russian, French and German sung as well as Latin. Rob Goodrich provided expert accompaniment on the organ.
After the interval Geoffrey Bush’s festive and often very lively ‘Christmas Cantata’ was performed with great enthusiasm and attention to detail, a striking contrast to the first half. The choir really excelled themselves with Rob Goodrich again providing excellent accompaniment, this time on the piano. The soprano soloist for the work was Helen Vaughan who also sang ‘The three Kings’ by Peter Cornelius.
Undoubtedly a highlight of the concert was the oboist Charlotte Evans who added another dimension to the ‘Cantata’. Her brilliant performance of ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ by Ennio Morricone was truly outstanding. Audience and choir were thrilled when she played it for a second time.
The audience joined the choir singing three carols, ‘See amid the winter’s snow’ ending the concert. Claire Dixon is to be warmly congratulated on the programme, the high standard once again achieved, a truly marvellous evening.
14th Dec 2014
Summer concert 2014
A large audience was treated to an excellent programme in Wymondham Abbey by the Choral Society conducted by Claire Dixon. Claire, the choir and their accompanist deserve much praise for the performance. Several items were included in commemoration of the First World War Centenary, the concert helping to raise funds for The Royal British Legion. A reading of war poetry between pieces added an extra dimension to the evening. The first work, the justly popular choruses from ‘The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace’ by Karl Jenkins, were performed with great feeling and attention to detail. Robert Goodrich played a fitting organ accompaniment. This was followed by a stirring organ recital by Robert of Mendelssohn’s ‘War March of the Priests’. After the interval he played Nigel Ogden’s ‘England’s Glory’, another opportunity to enjoy his musicianship and Wymondham Abbey’s impressive organ.
To end the first half an unaccompanied song based on the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ was sung by the bass and tenor sections of the choir. The composer, David Pendrill, who wrote the piece especially for the centenary, was present to hear a moving performance which was repeated after the interval, much to the delight of the audience.
‘Nocturnes’ by Morten Lauridsen, a composer known for music of transcendent beauty, maintained the atmosphere of serenity. The choir sang three of these complex pieces, which included text in French and Spanish, with calm confidence accompanied by Robert on the piano.
Finally, the audience was treated to George Shearing’s ‘Shakespeare Songs and Sonnets’, a lively contrast. The choir sang with great gusto and enjoyment, Robert playing a jazzy accompaniment on the piano, a fitting end to an evening of fine music.
13th July 2014
Spring Concert 2014
The magnificence of St. Peter Mancroft church in the centre of Norwich, floodlit against the clear night sky, was the setting for a stunning concert performed by Wymondham Choral Society and the Amadeus Orchestra, conducted by Claire Dixon. The evening began with Dvorak’s Mass in D, a tuneful and beautiful work. Harmonising beautifully with the choir were four fine soloists: Nicola Wydenbach soprano, Sarah Parkinson mezzo soprano, Daniel Bartlette tenor and Dhilan Gnanadurai bass. The choir sang with great confidence and sensitivity. Subtle dynamics and great attention to detail made for a memorable performance, one they can be proud of.
Bach’s wonderful Cantata 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis followed the interval. Robert Goodrich, Director of Music at Wymondham Abbey, played organ continuo. Much credit is due to all – soloists, choir and orchestra – for their outstanding performance of this moving work which makes huge demands on singers and musicians. It develops from a mournful beginning to joyous celebration of God’s power. The choir took control of the cantata with confidence. There was clear diction throughout and the same attention to detail. The seventy singers made the most of the text and showed great confidence in the difficult passages. They sounded truly thrilling in the acoustics of the church.
The cantata includes some of Bach’s finest writing for soloists. In particular, the arias and duet Komm, mein Jesu, for soprano and bass, were quite delightful. Much credit is due to the four soloists and they are to be warmly congratulated.
Twenty talented young musicians of the Amadeus Orchestra formed the orchestra for the concert. The choir was delighted to welcome them back to perform with them for the third time in Norwich. They were the perfect support for the singers, providing the right balance of sound throughout the concert and are to be commended on their very high standard of musicianship.
Finally, many congratulations are due to Claire Dixon who has once more prepared the choir for a concert of a very high standard with great sensitivity and attention to detail. This was an evening of glorious music which will be remembered.
Christmas Concert December 2013
St. Mary’s parish church in Attleborough was the delightful setting for the Choral Society’s Christmas concert conducted by Claire Dixon. A stirring arrangement of ‘Joy to the World’ began a splendid evening of music. The choir sang this carol with confidence and gusto, a fitting start to a varied programme. Joined by four well matched soloists, soprano Cheryl Aughton, mezzo Sarah Parkinson, tenor Stephen Miles and bass Tim Elliott, the choir performed St. Nicholas Mass, a spirited and cheerful work by Haydn. There was much attention to detail from the choir with excellent dynamics and lovely lyricism. Soloists and choir created a thrilling sound in the pleasing acoustics of the church.
Two short works by Benjamin Britten rounded off the first half: the deeply moving ‘Hymn to the Virgin’ sung unaccompanied and ‘Jubilate Deo’, a joyous contrast. They were a tribute from the choir to the composer in his centenary year. Performed with great sensitivity, in many ways this was one of the highlights of the concert.
Subtle dynamics and clear diction from the choir continued after the interval. A selection of carols with unusual arrangements followed: a Catalan carol, El Noi de la Mare; Huron Carol, a tune from the Huron Indians; Adam Lay Ybounden, a 15th Century carol and an enjoyable mixture of unusual and more familiar carols, some unaccompanied. Soprano Cheryl Aughton joined the choir as the delightful soloist in two of them. The audience was also treated to a Messiah aria from each of the soloists between the carols. The concert concluded with ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’ for the audience to join in, the last verse sung by the choir with an exhilarating finale.
Much credit is due to Claire Dixon for maintaining the choir’s high standard and also to Robert Goodrich, Musical Director of Wymondham Abbey and their rehearsal accompanist, who provided excellent support on the organ throughout the concert.
Summer Concert 2013
Wymondham Abbey was the venue for a concert given by Wymondham Choral Society on Saturday 6th July during the Wymondham Music Festival. The first half included two substantial choral works: Gounod’s Messe Solennelle de Sainte-Cécile and Dvorák’s Te Deum, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. There were some telling moments in the Sanctus and Benedictus of the Gounod Mass, featuring the tenor soloist William Falconer. But the highlight of the first half was Dvorak’s more inspired setting of the Te Deum.
Here the alternation of the choir with the soprano Lorna Kisby and baritone Dhilan Gnanaduria was particularly effective. Conductor Claire Dixon drew some inspirational singing from the choir and Robert Goodrich provided splendid support on the piano.
The second half featured three of the Coronation Anthems by Handel which are always popular with both choirs and audiences. Here again the Wymondham Choral Society were alert and attentive. The concert concluded with a stirring rendition of Zadok the Priest, in which Robert Goodrich was able to show off the full capabilities of the fine organ at Wymondham Abbey.
Spring Concert 2013
1689 work still has emotional pull
Under Claire Dixon, the Wymondham Choral Society attracted a large audience for a concert performance of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Dating from 1689 and among the first English operas, it still has the power to stir emotions.
Strong in voice and growing in character, Nicola Wydenbach’s Dido had regal presence and dignity in misfortune. Though the role of Aeneas allowed only limited possibilities, Rupert Reid was impressive too.
As the Queen’s younger sister, Lisa Cassidy was bright-voiced and impetuous. Mischief was a delight for the Sorceress and the two Witches, Alexandra Saunders, Billie Robson and Annabella Ellis, who later made a cameo with the jolly Sailor’s Song.
The chorus of 70 looked on and commented with sympathy. It often created neat echo effects and gave responses that were always in proportion to the strength of the soloists.
It had a more empathetic part in I Will Magnify Thee, one of the Chandos Anthems that Handel wrote for his patron soon after arriving in London.
As well as providing stylish accompaniment, the Brook Street Band (leader Farran Scott) also performed another of Handel’s compositions, a delightful Sinfonia from his early days in Germany.
Eastern Daily Press 29.4.13
Christmas Concert 2012
A concert of delightful seasonal music awaited us at the beautifully floodlit Wymondham Abbey on a damp December evening. Music by Bach, Bruckner, Fauré, Monteverdi and Sweelinck was included in the first part of the programme. The choir sang unaccompanied, and with great feeling, the tranquil ‘Locus iste’ and ‘Ave Maria’ by Bruckner to begin the concert. Bach’s moving ‘O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht’ was performed with the same calm control. ‘Beatus vir’ by Monteverdi provided a joyful, vibrant contrast. In this the choir was joined by a small ensemble of two violinists and a cellist who added much depth and colour to the work.
The programme continued with Fauré’s beautiful ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, the Dutch composer Sweelinck’s ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ and an organ solo. The complex Sweelinck work was performed with joy and confidence by the choir.
Rob Goodrich, the recently appointed organist and Director of Music at Wymondham Abbey, played ‘God rest you merry gentlemen from ‘Six Interludes on Christmas carols’ arr. W.S. Lloyd-Webber. This was a superb performance from a most accomplished player. Rob provided excellent accompaniment throughout the concert on the Abbey organ, the chamber organ and the piano which was much appreciated by everyone.
A pleasing selection of carols and choruses from ‘Messiah’ awaited us after the interval. One highlight was the soprano soloist, Lorna Kisby, singing ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’. She also later sang the recitative for one of the Handel choruses and the solo verse of Noël Nouvelet, in a clear soprano voice.
The carols sung so confidently by the choir were another highlight: the rousing ‘Joy to the World’; the atmospheric ‘London Waits, with its sounds of the watchman and church bells; Gabriel’s Message and Noël Nouvelet. The audience joined in with ‘In the Bleak Mid-winter’. Our evening of delightful music finished with four of Handel’s choruses from Messiah with Hallelujah as the climax. A great deal of credit is due to Claire Dixon, the talented, charismatic conductor of the choir. Once again the Choral Society had given us a memorable and uplifting start to the Christmas season, and helped to raise funds for their designated charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Summer Concert 2012
Wymondham Choral Society excelled itself on Saturday. Their summer concert in the welcoming setting of St. Mary’s, Attleborough’s fine church, was quite outstanding throughout. The programme opened with John Rutter’s Gloria, a demanding, complex work. Applause greeted the end of the first movement, so stirring was the choir’s joyful singing which resounded in the excellent acoustic of the church. The following movements demonstrated great sensitivity, ranging superbly between piano and fortissimo. The calm second movement in particular was profoundly moving. Much credit is due to Claire Dixon, their talented conductor, for her mastery of the score and to Tom Primrose for a stunning piano accompaniment.
Tom’s versatility and skill were evident in the next item, his sensitive, often moving performance of Brahms’ Intermezzo op.118 no.2. The audience was spellbound as he played with great feeling and attention to detail. Thunderous applause greeted him after the final notes died away.
Haydn’s Te Deum closed the first half of the concert with Tom Primrose accompanying the choir with great skill on the church’s excellent organ. Again the choir performed with confidence and impeccable control. Difficult passages were sung with ease and dynamics were excellent. Throughout the concert it was noticeable that the four sections were equally balanced, perhaps especially so in this work.
After the interval we were again treated to Tom’s skill as organist in Widor’s Toccata. He played with great concentration but with obvious ease, a rousing start to the second half. This was followed by Horovitz and Flanders’ witty Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo which tells the story of Noah and his ark. Before the start Claire Dixon appeared from the back of the church wearing sou’wester and carrying a large umbrella suitably decorated with musical notation! Choir members also sported brollies! The performance proved a delight, full of lively rhythms, enjoyed by performers and audience alike. Credit is due to the two singers who took solo parts as well as to the choir singing with expression and frequent gusto.
It was obvious how much the choir will miss Tom who is leaving the area this summer. Claire Dixon’s tribute to him at the end of the concert was a fine conclusion to a thrilling evening of first class music.
Easter Concert 2012
A musical treat was appreciated by the audience in St. Peter Mancroft, an outstanding performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle. The mass, so surprising from a composer known for his operatic works and written towards the end of his life, is not solemn. Light touches of humour and much joyful harmonic writing create a unique and memorable work. This evening the performers did full justice to the score.
As for the first performances of Rossini’s mass, a harmonium was used. This charming instrument added much to the concert. It was unfortunate that it had to be replaced by the organ for the second half of the concert but this was expertly achieved. The sound of the organ added a similar fresh dimension to the concert and Anthony Joule deserves much commendation for his performance on both instruments.
A piano accompanied the original concerts. This is the backbone of the work. For this evening’s concert the distinguished pianist John Byron provided outstanding support for the choir and soloists, a truly thrilling performance, hugely enjoyed.
The soloists were quite excellent. Lisa Cassidy, soprano, her voice well suited to the work, sang with great clarity and professionalism. Sarah Parkinson added a strong full contralto. William Falconer, the fine tenor, sang with warmth and passion, and the promising young singer, Tim Elliott, provided a strong confident bass. When singing together the four voices harmonised beautifully.
Much credit is due to Claire Dixon who has continued to maintain the high standard she has achieved with her choir. The four sections blended together perfectly. They sang with great confidence, with excellent dynamics and real feeling. This is a demanding work. Their mastery of difficult fugal passages was quite superb. Once again their conductor had achieved a near professional standard.
Christmas Concert 2011
A warm welcome awaited us at a floodlit Wymondham Abbey on a chilly December evening. We were treated to a marvellous concert performed by Wymondham Choral Society and tenor soloist Daniel Joy, accompanied by an invitation orchestra.
Britten’s Saint Nicolas was the opening work, a stunning, atmospheric cantata based on legends connected with the fourth century bishop and saint. It was obvious from the start that the conductor, Claire Dixon, had impeccable control. The work is demanding, involving precise timing. The excellent orchestra, leader David Randall, of strings, piano duet, organ and percussion provided a superb performance, forming an integral part of the work. There were many highlights. Their depiction of a storm at sea when Nicolas saved the sailors on board ship was particularly outstanding. Never dominating the choir the players provided a truly inspiring tapestry of sound.
The choir excelled itself. Their singing was at one moment powerful, at another a tranquil piano, always clearly audible when small semi choruses were included. Diction was commendable. They were performing with passion, conveying the meaning strongly. They sang with confidence and conviction.
It was a delight to hear Daniel Joy, the talented tenor soloist. This work is demanding and complex. Daniel sang with great sensitivity and control. His rich voice could be powerful and strong, or delicate, often very moving. Throughout the concert he sang with great attention to detail. It was truly a privilege to listen to him.
Special mention must be made of Thomas Wright who sang the part of Nicolas as a child and Thomas with Philip and Samuel Gay as the pickled boys. They deserve our warmest thanks.
After the interval the programme included a pleasing selection of carols, some familiar, some not. The choir sang A Fanfare for Christmas by Robin Wells and Bach’s O Little one Sweet without accompaniment. Daniel Joy provided more outstanding singing in two of them and also the lovely O holy Night by Adolphe Adam. His solo, That Yonge Child, from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols was a marvellous highlight.
The audience enjoyed joining in with two hymns in the first half and a final carol. A concert that was an uplifting prelude to Christmas, a great credit to all!
Summer Concert 2011
An audience of over 200 people attended the concert given by Wymondham Choral Society directed by Claire Dixon, accompanied by Tom Primrose on the piano and three guest soloists as part of the Wymondham Music Festival.
The first half was devoted to Puccini’s ‘Messa Di Gloria’, written when the composer was only eighteen. This setting of the Mass was operatic in style. Here, the choir revelled in the memorable melodic writing and subtle harmonies which we have come to associate with this great operatic composer. The ‘Credo’ (not as vast in scale as the ‘Gloria’) was suitably dramatic, featuring some expressive singing which Claire Dixon drew from the choir. Here they were joined by Soprano Billie Robson, Tenor William Falconer who sang the ‘Et incarnatus est….’ with great sensitivity and Bass-Baritone Mark Horner whose rich timbre particularly suited the ‘Crucifixus’ section.
In the second half, the three soloists sang a selection of Russian, German and English songs most expertly accompanied by Tom Primrose on the piano. These included two settings by Rachmaninov which were sung with great style by the impressive young soprano Billie Robson. Mark Horner captured the nautical flavour of John Ireland’s setting of ‘Sea Fever’, while William Falconer’s tribute to the great tenor Richard Tauber was particularly well received to rapturous applause from the audience.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Tippett’s Spirituals from ‘A Child of Our Time’. The Choir, under Claire Dixon’s inspired direction was equal to the complex choral textures and displayed impeccable intonation. Soprano, Billie Robson, soared effortlessly above the Choir in ‘Steal Away’, while in ‘Deep River’ the soloists and the Choir were contrasted against each other most effectively. This proved to be a fitting and moving climax to a most enjoyable evening. The concert was in support of a local cancer charity, ‘Star Throwers’.
Easter Concert 2011
St. Peter Mancroft Church in the centre of Norwich was the magnificent setting for a most excellent performance of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater by the Wymondham Choral Society, conducted by their musical director Claire Dixon. Her choir, accompanied by The Amadeus Orchestra and four superb soloists treated the audience to an evening of moving and utterly beautiful music. The concert helped to raise funds for our local charity for cancer sufferers, Big C.
Dvorak composed the Stabat Mater in 1877, following the deaths of his first three children. It is uncertain how much these tragedies affected his composition but the work is outstanding for its beauty, its expression of sadness and its final glorious hope that the spirit will live on after death. Its origins are a medieval poem describing the Virgin Mary’s grief as she stands by the cross and Christ’s suffering which the poet longs to share. Through this he hopes to join them in Paradise. Thus the work was a fitting one to hear so close to Easter.
The Wymondham Choral Society performed with great passion yet firm control. The four sections of the choir were well balanced, singing as a totally united whole. Throughout the ten sections of the work quiet reflective passages contrasted with bursts of strong fortissimo. The effect was thrilling and often spine-tingling. Dvorak’s work is said to move performers and audiences to tears. I can vouch for this.
Nicola Wydenbach, with beautiful soprano voice soaring over the church, sang with great clarity. Melanie Lodge, the melodious alto, provided a strong contrast. Tyler Clarke stood in at very short notice for the tenor who was unable to join the concert. The Society is indebted to him. This very fine tenor and Timothy Hamilton, bass, were also outstanding soloists. It was a privilege to hear them.
The talented young players of The Amadeus Orchestra complemented the singers providing an excellent balance of sound. Dvorak’s composition is special among the history of Stabat Maters because of its symphonic quality. It is a substantial work which demands substantial resources.
Congratulations are due in large measure to Claire Dixon who conducted this huge work with precise attention to detail and firm control. The concert’s success was an enormous credit to her.
30th Anniversary Concert
In celebration of their anniversary the Society performed an outstanding concert in Wymondham Abbey which looked magical in the icy dusk as the audience arrived. The concert had had to be transferred at only a week’s notice from Attleborough church and it was gratifying to see such a large audience packing the Abbey. Claire Dixon conducted the choir and invitation orchestra led by David Randall in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – Parts I-III – and Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Vaughan Williams. The concert helped to raise funds for The Norfolk Family Mediation Service.
The orchestra played these demanding works with great sensitivity, adding an authentic context to the singing. Individual players who contributed much were the trumpeters and Anthony Joule, well known locally, on organ continuo. All, however, are to be commended.
Christmas Oratorio, composed in 1734-35, is a complex work in which Bach demands much from the singers. The stirring first chorus began an evening of contrasts: moving chorales and often fast choruses interspersed with the solos.
The tenor, William Falconer, was a melodious Evangelist. Tom Primrose, counter-tenor, particularly moving in the fourth section “Prepare thyself, Zion” was consistently strong throughout. Helen Vaughan, soprano, harmonised well with Fearghus Cooper in the duet, adding effectively a contrasting voice to the music. Fearghus stood in at short notice for the bass soloist who had previously been engaged and had to withdraw. The Society is indebted to him.
Fantasia on Christmas Carols suits the Choral Society. Musical director Claire Dixon highlighted the contrast between fortissimo and delicate piano. Throughout the entire concert she was in absolute control and paid attention to detail. The diction of the choir was particularly commendable.
Overall, the concert was a great credit to the Society, a very fitting tribute to thirty years of performances.
Summer Concert 2010
Another most enjoyable concert by the Wymondham Choral Society – it was no surprise to read in the programme that there is a waiting list of singers wanting to join.
The audience’s attention was immediately engaged by a tender rendering of the first Elgar Motet, Ave Verum Corpus, followed by three others. The parts were well-balanced and Claire Dixon allowed no lagging.
Steffan Jones was the soloist in Stanford’s “Songs of the Fleet”, standing in at extremely short notice. The atmosphere of the verses was well distinguished: sailing at dawn with a maritime rhythm; a quiet reflective middle watch; the little admiral with a bunch of sturdy sailors and a magnificent finale in the farewell.
Regular supporters of the choir will have met the versatile Anthony Joule in many guises, this time as the composer of two tuneful choral works, the first in particular employing a more modern idiom.
In Stanford’s “The Blue Bird” several sopranos sang what is usually a solo part, appearing to reach the highest notes with ease.
David Dunnett then put the organ through its paces with a spirited account of a movement from Elgar’s Sonata in G.
The evening closed with a fine rendering of Vaughan Williams’ “Five Mystical Songs”, a setting of poems by George Herbert, a younger contemporary of Shakespeare. Again the baritone played a prominent part but the choir also provided some memorable moments – the wordless chorus in “Love Bade me Welcome” and a powerful “Antiphon”.
Steffan Jones has a rich, pleasing baritone voice well suited to this evening’s repertoire. One would never has guessed that there was only a single rehearsal for the choir and the last minute replacement soloist.
Well done all!
Easter Concert 2010
On Saturday 27th March at St Peter Mancroft church, an audience of over three hundred were treated to one of Joseph Haydn’s later choral works The Seasons. Although better known for his oratorio The Creation, Haydn’s The Seasons is nonetheless a fine work and received a sparkling performance from the Wymondham Choral Society, Amadeus Orchestra of London and three excellent soloists.
The work begins with an orchestral introduction depicting the passage of winter to Spring. This is followed by the chorus of country folk. Later comes a Song of Joy in which Haydn skilfully represents the leaping lambs and fluttering birds.
The trio and chorus which opens ‘Summer’ reminds us of a similar passage in The Creation, as the sun rises with a beautifully expressive crescendo. Later comes a representation of a thunderstorm with drum rolls and pizzicato strings. In Autumn we hear the hunting horns and cries of ‘Yo ho ho’ in the drinking chorus. But there are tender moments too, like the introduction to Winter and the ensuing Cavatina sung by the tenor soloist.
In this work, Haydn skilfully juxtaposes his trio of soloists, chorus and orchestra. Claire Dixon was in complete command of her combined forces throughout the performance. There was much to admire with the spirited singing of the chorus, ably assisted by an excellent orchestra of young professional musicians. The soloists also made an outstanding contribution. The soprano Nicola Wydenbach was strong and vibrant; tenor Stephen Miles (standing in at short notice) was lyrical while bass Peter Willcock had a rich and sonorous timbre. Overall, a most entertaining and enthralling evening.
St Peter Mancroft, Norwich.
The Wymondham Choral Society and the young instrumentalists of the London Amadeus Orchestra, led by Francesca Barritt, combined under Claire Dixon for Haydn’s Seasons.
With Michael Pilkington’s revised version of the libretto and some judicious cuts, the oratorio expressed its pious optimism with period charm.
The third part was especially vivid. It was a musical description of country life. First came a solemn, full-throated chorus hymning the pleasures and rewards of hard work.
This was followed, with a certain irony, by a step by step account of a day out shooting, by the rich tones of horns recalling the traditions of the hunt and finally by the hubbub of an evening devoted to quaffing the new wine.
The bass-baritone Peter Willcock put both vigour and character into the farmer Simon, and Nicola Wydenbach brought her well-focused soprano voice to the role of his daughter Jane. Gallantly replacing an indisposed colleague at short notice, Stephen Miles was Lucas.
The 80 singers in the chorus made the most of some splendid moments and launched confidently into the more exposed fugal passages. The orchestra provided a great deal of adroit musical scene painting with the right balance of assertion and restraint.
Eastern Daily Press 29.3.10
Christmas Concert 2009
Some Christmas warmth courtesy of The Wymondham Choral Society was bestowed upon the audience at St. Mary’s Attleborough on a wet Advent Saturday. Christmas cheer abounded in the sensitive singing of four lovely carols at the end of a feast of Handel. “Messiah” is so often performed at this time of year that it becomes a cliché. In the capable hands of Claire Dixon’s choir there was a palpable sense of joy and excitement as the rhythms and timbres of the chorus were beautifully executed. In the upper registers in particular there was a real sense of praising the Lord with all their might and celebrating the Christmas story. Hence the Hallelujah Chorus, for which the soloists joined the splendid choir, was a magnificent display of vocal skill. It is a wonderful chorus and one never tires of hearing it performed.
Meg Starling trilled her way with great precision and vocal ingenuity through such lovely arias as “I know my Redeemer Liveth”. There was great warmth from William Falconer as he began the evening with “Every Valley shall be Exalted”. Vera Cooke’s contribution included a moving and poignant version of “He was Despised”. The bass, Miles Horner, was in particularly good voice and his singing of “The Trumpet shall Sound” accompanied by brass tones on the organ was a highlight of the evening.
Finally, the ultimate plaudits go to Tom Primrose who played the organ throughout and made it sound like a full orchestra. He was the backbone of a splendid concert that celebrated the true meaning of Christmas.
Summer Concert 2009
Wymondham Abbbey was the magnificent setting for the Wymondham Choral Society’s summer concert. The large choir, accompanied by an invitation orchestra of about thirty players, was conducted by Claire Dixon.
The main work in the first half, Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42, featured Bridget Snasdell, mezzo-soprano, who sang with a strong, clear confidence. Although somewhat hesitant in places, the choir produced a rich sound with a pleasing balance between the four sections. This was an attractive work, not particularly well-known, but a striking contrast to the three other short pieces in the first half of the concert.
Three unaccompanied pieces complemented this work. O Magnum Mysterium by our contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen, had a calm serenity. Similarly, Abendlied, another work of great beauty by Josef Rheinberger, a German composer of the nineteenth century, was performed with sensitivity and passion. Most memorable , however, was the final part of Rachmaninov’s Vespers, Hail Virgin Mother, sung in Russian. The effect of this work sung beautifully in the original language was profoundly moving.
Haydn’s Mass in the Time of War formed the second half of the concert. The choir sang with energy and obvious enjoyment, a lively, confident performance tightly controlled by Claire Dixon at the podium. Anna Trent and Bridget Snasdell, sopranos, Matthew Bennett, tenor and Fearghus Cooper, bass, featured as a pleasing balance of soloists. A special mention should be made of Matthew Bennett, a newcomer to the Society concerts, notable for his fine tenor voice. The concert ended with much appreciative applause from the large audience. Not surprisingly, the Choral Society has maintained the high standard it is known for and added much to the Wymondham Festival.
Easter Concert 2009
On Saturday 18th April Wymondham Choral Society, in conjunction with the Mozart Orchestra, presented a concert of music by Mozart in the imposing surroundings of St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. The popularity of this composer was indicated by the early arrival of a large audience.
The choir led with the Ave Verum Corpus K618 motet under the direction of Claire Dixon. It was evident that most of the singers knew the piece from memory and all eyes were on their conductor, leading to an impeccable ensemble.
Geoffrey Barker then exchanged his seat at the first desk for the podium, to conduct the Mozart Orchestra in Symphony No.38 K504, the “Prague”. It is not clear why this symphony has only three movements instead of the usual four. The advantage of a chamber orchestra was apparent throughout, the performance showing a transparency which revealed all the inner parts. Nevertheless there was a power when needed, as in the first movement, while the twinkling but controlled third movement had many a foot tapping in the audience.
And so to the Requiem K626 with Claire Dixon directing. Again the Wymondham Choral Society were clearly no strangers to this work and presented it with confident entries and due attention to the dynamics. High spots in the performance were the threatening air of the Dies Irae, the radiance of the wonderful Lux Aeterna and the triumphant Cum Sanctis.
There was a strong quartet of soloists: Hannah Long, Sarah Parkinson, William Falconer and Anthony Joule, who individually sang splendidly though in the quartet of the Benedictus the men could have been less self-effacing in a difficult acoustic.
After this fine performance by the Wymondham Choral Society we shall look forward to their next concert.
Eric Springthorpe April 2009
Christmas Concert 2008
A packed church in Attleborough was treated to a fine and innovative collection of mainly seasonal music, warmed on a cold night by a variety of tuneful carols together with a delightfully amusing organ solo by Tom Primrose.
The soprano Sarahjane King performed an Italian Carol (Ninna- Nanna a Gesu Bambino) with choral accompaniment which was a beautiful juxtaposition of sounds. She returned later to sing the Pie Jesu by Faure with a gentle passion. The concert was rounded off by a strong account of “Joy to the World” by a choir that is well rehearsed and sings with great joy and gusto.
This was particularly apparent in the first part of the evening in the splendid performance of Poulenc’s “Gloria”. Although the orchestra initially showed signs of indiscipline their improvement was marked as the piece progressed; the woodwind in particular helped to bring the piece alive. At the first entry of the choir, under the firm guidance of Claire Dixon, it was obvious that this would be a feast for music lovers. The Gloria is music of subtlety and variety and Claire Dixon brought this out with a good commanding presence at the podium. Not just a group of singers performing music they loved singing in harmony, this is a well-organised choir that interprets music well.
Soprano Sarahjane King gave a particularly moving account of the Domine Deus, Agnus Dei. In the final section soloist and choir combined to provide a climax to the first part of a lovely evening in a great setting.
Summer Concert 2008
Wymondham Choral Society presented a varied programme in the Abbey on Saturday 12th July which drew a large audience. The concert opened with a rousing performance of Handel’s “Let Thy Hand be Strengthened”. In the central Largetto the men coped particularly well with some exacting passages. The Allegro was vigorous and well-drilled.
There followed Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”, sung by Anna Trent and Bridget Snasdell accompanied on the piano by Ben Giddens. Though listed as sopranos, their ranges differed sufficiently to give a complementary blend of voices in a pleasing performance marred only by a slight misunderstanding at the beginning of one section.
Sarah Parkinson (contralto) followed with Handel’s “Art Thou Troubled?” Miss Parkinson has a very smooth delivery, even in quality throughout the whole vocal range, making this a very pleasing item.
The first half was completed with a “Magnificat” attributed to Pergolesi, though probably by Durante. To the credit of the choir it was possible to follow the Latin from the programme, a unanimity of pronunciation which is not always achieved.
The second half consisted of Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, full of delights – an excellent attack on the “Gloria”, a smooth “Et in Terra” (surely one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written) and some excellent woodwind in the “Domine Deus.”
A special accolade for the tenors and basses who, although outnumbered by the ladies, were at all times audible without forcing the tone.
We have an excellent choir in Norfolk, people. The Wymondham Choral Society sang their socks off last Saturday in the German Requiem of Brahms. Their Easter concert in St. Peter Mancroft to raise funds for the Mancroft Advice Project (MAP) was well attended and very satisfying.
Claire Dixon directed the performance with great clarity and firmness, although one fugue was rather muddier. It was occasionally a little too straight, yet it was an effective and affecting performance. The orchestra was most supportive. There were even happy listeners at the doors. Lucky Norvicians.
A Chorus of much Approval
This excellent concert was enjoyed in St. Andrew’s on Saturday. Claire Dixon directed Wymondham Choral Society, organist and soloists in some well-thought-out and musical interpretations which the choir delivered enthusiastically and with determination. …After the interval came a rare chance to hear Dvorak’s inevitably melodious and attractive Mass in D. …Dvorak’s music was well- conveyed, with the chorus effecting some precise, dramatic interplay with the soloists.
Ivor Solomons Easter 2007
Bach Cantata 150, Haydn Missa Brevis St. Joannis de Deo “Little Organ Mass”,
Dvorak Mass in D Major performed at Hingham.