Cockermouth Harmonic Society

The Creation – Cockermouth Harmonic Society Concert 8 April 2017

Cockermouth Harmonic fittingly chose to launch their 150th anniversary with a performance in Christ Church of Haydn’s ‘The Creation’ – a joyful work full of drama, originality, wit and exuberance. A capacity audience was treated to an evening of sheer pleasure.

The oratorio is divided into three parts, the first two describing the six days of Creation and the third the happiness of Adam and Eve and their praise of God. In style and form it is operatic with soloists narrating the story and the chorus celebrating the Creation in monumental hymns of praise.

Haydn wrote the score for a large orchestra but the arrangement for a smaller ensemble used in this performance by the Lonsdale Classical Ensemble was surprisingly refreshing. Haydn’s exquisite instrumentation was uncluttered and the effect was often as of chamber music. Woodwind passages were beautifully expressive and demonstrated the range of tonal colours which make the descriptive passages so appealing. The Strings played with tenderness and virtuosity.  Animals, birds, rolling waves, sun moon and stars,  rain hail and snow and the astonishing ‘Representation of Chaos’ at the start were all very convincingly portrayed.

The three soloists were outstanding. We were truly privileged to have performers of this calibre.  Representing archangels in Parts 1 and 2 they narrate the story and comment on it. As Raphael, Brian Bannatyne - Scott was dramatic and powerful with rich tone and clear diction. Tracie Penwarden sang with purity and tenderness and was particularly affecting as Eve. Alex Banfield’s singing was warm, expressive and lyrical.

But perhaps the evening belonged to the choir, celebrating the long and successful years of the Society.  They more than rose to the occasion under the inspirational direction of Ian Thompson, who has raised their standard out of all recognition over the past 7 years. Their full bodied sound filled the church in the joyful choruses, but they were also very effective in soft passages, such as the beginning of ‘And the Spirit of God’.

Fugal passages were handled with confidence, the tenors and basses providing a rock solid foundation, altos and sopranos singing with apparent ease and the high notes confidently reached throughout the evening. An occasional slightly hesitant entry did not detract from the impressive overall performance. The final chorus ‘Sing the Lord’ was uplifting and brought the evening to a rousing end.

Sadly, Ian Thompson will be leaving in the summer. He will be sorely missed but the choir will, it is to be hoped, continue to perform to the high standards he has set.

Susan Ralph