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Unexpected Delights

MIKE WHEELER listens to
The Sitwell Singers


The Sitwell Singers have just announced the appointment of Malcolm Goldring, chief executive of the British Federation of Young Choirs, as their new conductor. While they await his arrival in January, one of their former conductors, David Johnson, returned as guest for their Christmas concert (St John's Church, Bridge Street, Derby, UK, 10 December 2007).

As in previous years, the choir didn't just rely on the old favourites to get a festive atmosphere going but also stirred some more unusual plums into the mix. Chief among these were two carols by former Master of the Music at Derby Cathedral Wallace Ross, enjoyably unpretentious and effectively written for voices. The soft, withdrawn ending of Long, Long Ago was particularly beautifully handled by the choir. Bogoroditsye Dyevo (the Russian Orthodox equivalent of the Catholic Ave Maria) from Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil (often inaccurately referred to as his 'Vespers') flowed beautifully, with some eloquently floated tone.

Two folk carols arranged by Philip Spratley turned out to be another unexpected delight. The Angel Gabriel (not the well-known Basque carol but one collected by Vaughan Williams in Herefordshire) and Wassail Song, from Lancashire, both got lively, engaging performances.

The opening group included Bruckner's Ave Maria, eloquently sung, though I question the stabbing accents on the words 'mortis', and tuning was not impeccable.

That reliable stand-by, 'Gaudete', was suitably vigorous, with David Johnson producing a bodhran to add some spirited drumming.

There were two organs solos. Tom Corfield, who played for the accompanied items, contributed Flor Peeters' Prelude on 'Wachet Auf', which contained what sounded like a deliberate reference to J S Bach's 'Schübler' Chorale Prelude on the same tune. David Johnson played the pungently-harmonised Meditation on 'Once in Royal David's City' by Polish composer Jan Janca (born 1933).

Copyright © 24 December 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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