June 2013
Cockermouth Harmonic Society

COCKERMOUTH HARMONIC SOCIETY: ROSSINI CONCERT 29 June 2013

The lasting glow of a concert is a sure sign that a real musical experience has been enjoyed.  Such was the case following the Harmonic Choir's performance to a capacity audience in a well-lit and spacious Christ Church, which offered good acoustics for a balance of choral parts.


I can compare this event as a journey on a large sailing ship with Ian Thompson at the helm, calmly yet vigorously directing his forces through the varied sections of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle.  Steady power from the engines came through the skilled hands of Hugh Davies at a magnificent 1900 French Harmonium, and of Cilla Grant whose superb piano accompaniment surely merited a more resonant instrument.  The score stipulated this pairing of instruments.  An added touch was the lighting of candles in their sconces!


The fine soloists, Gillian Rae-Walker (Soprano), Sarah-Jillian Cox (Mezzo-Soprano), Christopher Steele (Tenor) and Julian Tovey (Bass), acted as Ship's Officers and displayed their talents in solos, duets and one trio, and interwove with the 'crew' (choir) through the calms and storms of the music.  The audience were passengers in their comfortable seats.

Simple octaves opening the Kyrie led us into the small rhythmic waves of the accompaniment.  The choral tone was warm, the diction clear and the well-shaped dynamic range, demanded by the ppp and pppp markings of the score, was most effective.  The diversity of style in the work ranged from Opera Buffa to Opera Seria with theatrical techniques and perhaps audience pleasers.  We were allowed to have fun as well as appreciate the serious function of the Mass.  


The Gloria was warmly expressive and the Credo conveyed the fervour of true belief.  The Tenor's Domine Deus, with its jaunty accompaniment came directly from the Operatic stage as if carried along by light breezes.  Cum Sancto Spiritu may sometimes come with weather warnings, but Ian steered his ship securely through with confident entries.  I let myself float happily along the contrapuntal Amen section.


My joy was increased through the music as I heard the choir’s Tenor section for quality of sound and musical security - no doubt the result of rehearsal time and effort.  Finally the Agnus Dei brought us 'pacem' in a very moving manner.

The six Bel Canto and contrasting Arias of Part Two gave great pleasure which was enhanced by the Andante Cantabile by Widor on piano and harmonium, a charming delicacy.  A delightful evening for everyone.


Madge Leeming