A concert by the Derwent Singers,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER
John Rutter's musical version of The Wind in the Willows ought to be a perfect piece for a summer evening's entertainment [Saturday 1 July 2006, Derby Grammar School for Boys, Littleover, Derby, UK]. Originally written for the King's Singers, it is full of sharp but gentle musical parodies ranging from jazz and cabaret to quasi-Gilbert and Sullivan. The trouble is, Rutter just can't resist diving head-first into a bucket of syrup whenever he gets the chance, and the ghastly final number, 'Home is a Special Kind of Feeling' (David Grant's lyric surely calculated to bring out the worst in the composer) nearly sabotages the whole thing. Shame, because up to that point it's really enjoyable. The Derwent Singers and conductor Richard Roddis drew us into the story with just the right light touch, and with some fine performances by members of the choir in the solo roles.
Their group of Renaissance pieces in the first half had admirable precision and tonal blend, projecting with equal conviction the bubbling chit-chat of Passereau's Il Est Bel et Bon and the haunting sadness of Josquin de Prez's Mille Regretz. They were razor-sharp in Gastoldi's rhythmically incisive Amor Vittorioso, though they missed a trick by not also including Morley's My Bonny Lass She Smileth, which quotes its opening phrases virtually note-for-note.
Christopher Brown's Three Shakespeare Songs, written in 1965, ought to be much better known. The Derwents met the music's challenges, particularly the elusive tonality of No 3, 'Come unto These Yellow Sands', with complete confidence.
There were some touching contributions, too, from Derby High School Intermediate Choir, which also provided the chorus of carol-singing fieldmice in the Rutter.
Copyright © 6 July 2006
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK
PASSIONTIDE MUSIC FROM THE DERWENT SINGERS
MONTEVERDI'S VESPERS WITH THE DERWENT SINGERS
THE DERWENT SINGERS