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UPPINGHAM CHORAL SOCIETY AUTUMN CONCERT – A REVIEW  by Dave Casewell

There was a distinct Autumnal chill in the air as I set off for Uppingham Parish Church to hear Uppingham Choral Society’s annual autumn concert. As usual, I will display my lack of musical knowledge by declaring that I did not know either of the two programme pieces, which put me in a minority, as I was to discover that many in the large audience were there specifically to hear Faure’s Requiem in D Minor declaring it to be ‘one of their most listened to’ musical recordings! I must start listening to Classic FM.

The beauty of arriving a little early is the random pew conversations that one either overhears…how rude….or that you actually take part in. My thanks to Sue & Barry sitting next to me for their conversation.

The conversation hushed and Peter Clements, the choir’s conductor, mounted his rostrum, well, a stool; raised his hand, the clock struck 8pm, and we were off! The first piece was ‘Towards the Unknown Region’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The piece was written in 1907 and is said to be inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman.

This piece of information further added to my sense of helplessness and ignorance, in spite of my ‘O’ level English Literature. The music was inspiring and uplifting, requiring the choir to ‘give it some welly’ at times. 

This can cause the resultant sound to feel a little strained at times. I think someone said, again in an overheard conversation, that this intended as a ‘sound poem’ as the words were indistinct and not a feature of the piece.  None the less, this was a pleasure to listen to, with an excellent and at some times stirring piano accompaniment by Elizabeth Arkell.

The second and final piece was the aforementioned ‘Requiem in D minor’. This was an entirely different piece, relaxing, thoughtful and comforting. Elizabeth Arkell switched instruments to that of the church organ, and once again superbly complimented the choral work The opening ‘Introit - Kyrie’ was a stirring piece with the choir producing a pure sound, whilst the ‘Offertorium’ gave the opportunity for the baritone soloist Hugo Herman-Wilson to show his undoubted musical prowess with his solo piece being beautifully sandwiched by the choir.

The ‘Sanctus’ was sweet sounding with some wonderful organ ‘twiddly bits’ (I don’t know the proper word) from Elizabeth Arkell.  ‘Pie Jesu’ was a solo piece ably and confidently performed by soprano Elfie Cracoft -Eley without even having the music in front of her as a prop! Well done Elfie!

‘Agnus Dei’ proved a swooping and soaring piece with sympathetic organ accompaniment, which led onto ‘Libera Me’, a baritone solo with the choir confidently adding to the feel of this section. The performance finished with an extraordinary controlled and lilting ‘In Paradisum’ which left the audience with a contented smile and then to vigorous applause for all concerned with this  thoughtful and well executed concert.

The evening finished with wine and snacks, a feature of Uppingham Choral Society’s concerts which allows the audience to mingle with the choir, and judging by the noise level of the conversation, proved just the right end to a great evening of choral music.

Their next concert is their ‘Christmas Concert’ on Friday 15 December with seasonal pieces, carols and readings. This will commence at 7.30 in Uppingham Parish Church.

Concerts we have performed

Faure
Requiem

Handel                      
Israel in Egypt
Coronation Anthems 

Brahms                      
German Requiem 

Mozart
Great C Minor Mass
Requiem
Solemn Vespers
Coronation Anthems

Beethoven
Mass in C

Elgar
For the Fallen
Songs from the Bavarian Highlands

Mendelssohn
Elijah

Vaughan Williams
Five Mystical Songs
Toward the Unknown Region