Cockermouth Harmonic Society

VERDI REQUIEM, produced by Lakeland Opera, 12TH July 2014

The Sands Centre, Carlisle

That classical music is alive and well in Cumbria was never in doubt on the night Lakeland Opera with Conductor Ian Thompson, Northern Chamber Orchestra  and  the Festival Chorus of 160 voices performed Verdi’s Requiem at the Sands Centre in Carlisle. Ian Thompson successfully united  choirs from across the county  (Cockermouth, Kendal, Keswick,Ullswater and Lakeland Opera), no easy task for any conductor, to produce a memorable performance of one of the greatest choral works ever written.

The opening(Requiem and Kyrie Eleison) was somewhat subdued, as if both singers and orchestra were testing the acoustics of a dual purpose hall which is not as kind to singers as one would wish, but as the music progressed, it all got better and better and the returns of the Dies Irae at intervals had all the vigour and passion one could hope for. The orchestra gave solid and uplifting support throughout(with some great solo playing from brass and woodwind and much sensitivity generally to the needs of the choir).

Verdi’s exceptionally beautiful music is full of sadness and melancholy but there  is joy, hope and affirmation too, all of which the choir understood and expressed. The soloists had some great moments, tenor Christopher Steele in the Ingemisco and bass Julian Tovey in Confutatis ,and the mezzo soprano Yvonne Fontane made much of the outstanding music Verdi wrote for the Liber Scriptus and Quid sum Miser. The Recordare duo with soprano (Katie Bird) and mezzo soprano was a triumph. The monastic fervour of the Offertorio was impressive, followed by  a gradual building of emotional intensity through the final movements, a solemnly reverential Sanctus, the Agnus Dei particularly fine,and the Lux Aeterna full of that trembling brightness that has one on the edge of tears, leading into the final Libera Me, where the choir sang with a lightness which showed a remarkable understanding of the text and the vision of the soul being released from its human shell to fly upward.

No wonder then that the agnostic Verdi, after writing such a work, hedged his bets at the end of his life and returned to the faith of his forefathers. The long moment of silence at the close of the performance was appropriate and could be felt throughout the hall, making the applause almost an intrusion - although there was clearly a need for the large audience to express their appreciation of what had been such an exceptional musical experience.

Susan Allison

2014 July Concert