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Jauchzet, frohlocket!

MALCOLM MILLER at Cholmley Choral Society's
Christmas Oratorio in London


Jauchzet, frohlocket -- Rejoice , Exult! For here is the season of Christmas Oratorios in their legion, and for me the start of the season was a valiant effort by the ebullient Cholmely Choral Society and Orchestra conducted by one of the choir's members Tec Fawcett at St Mary's Church Brookfield, near Highgate, London, on 8 December 2001. There is no doubt as to the perennial appeal of this uplifting and inspiring masterpiece, but on this occasion, one of the winning elements was the judicious editing of the original six sections, to fit a two hour programme, which also underlined the intrinsic connections amongst the parts. For instance, the brightly pointed opening chorus, is echoed in finger-snapping vigour of Herrscher des Himmels which opens Part III, the motifs now inverted and turned from major to minor. Certainly the work got off to a bright start, many of the choruses displaying the bright soprano colours and cohesive textures of this enthusiastic and accomplished amateur choir, formed some fifteen years ago. Most of the firmly harmonized chorales were impressive (though some were thin or too slow), as were those with colourful instrumental interludes. The intricate polyphonic choruses (e.g. Fallt mit Danken, Part III, with two obligato horns) and semi-choruses with solo recitative were always lucidly controlled.

Whilst a number of elements combined to make this an enjoyable evening, there were inevitably some shortcomings to be expected of such occasions, such as ragged instrumental entries, slightly plodding tempi, and hesitant choral entries giving overly thin inner textures. Certainly one of the most crucial requirements for amateur choral societies, and one which choral trainers inevitably pursue, is the need to sing out and project strongly to the audience, and particularly to stress fugal entries -- tenors especially! Too often choirs sing to the stage or podium but do not aim to fill the hall with their potentially splendid sound. Here projection indeed was far less effective than it might have been in this generous acoustic, and one longed to hear the colours and cohesive blends of the chorus more forthrightly.

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Copyright © 15 December 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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