Next Events

Next Annual Concert

Saturday 27th January 2018, 7.30 at Thornden Hall:

David Briggs: God’s Grandeur
Leonard Bernstien: Chichester Psalms
John Rutter: Mass of the children

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Reviews

Reviews from previous concerts

Winchester and County Music Festival Concert, Romsey Abbey, 7th May 2016

On the evening of 7th May the Winchester and County Music Festival Choir and Orchestra were joined by a large audience in Romsey Abbey, for an evening of Mozart conducted by David Burgess. On this occasion the choir comprised the Botley Choral Society, Overton Choral Society and the Winchester City Festival Choir. Accompanying the large body of singers was an orchestra of 28 players.

It seems a total injustice that Mozart, despite all his genius, had to scrape a living. In the year before he wrote the Vespers K. 339 his mother died, and he was rejected by the lady of his affections. Despite this, Mozart poured out music of amazing vitality.

The Vespers opened with Dixit Dominus. From the beginning it was clear that we were in for a special evening; the choir and orchestra were well balanced and responsive, and the conductor David Burgess radiated all the energy and invention which Mozart had imbued into this piece. The soloists, Helen Bailey, Soprano, Marie-Anne Hall, Contralto, Adrian Green, Tenor and Tom Herring, Bass Baritone entered at “Gloria in Patri”, and made a very professional sound. Of special mention was the movement “Laudate Dominum” and Helen Bailey’s lyrical introduction to the chorus. The Vespers were brought to an end with a rousing Amen, and the musicians were greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Only the first movement of the Requiem was written in its entirety by Mozart. Due to his failing health, the rest of the work was completed posthumously by others, based on Mozart’s musical shorthand notes, and recollections from his pupils. Nevertheless, Mozart’s genius shines through.

The requiem started with the Kyrie. David Burgess dictated a brisk pace, and the basses, followed by the other parts, responded with spirit. Many of the movements had fast running passages which the choir executed well. In the Confutatis and the Agnus the choir treated us to some lovely softer singing. The orchestra played sensitively throughout; of special mention were the fast passages in the Dies Irae and Recordare which were brilliantly played by the lower and upper strings respectively. Another delightful passage was the duet between the trombone and the baritone soloist in the Tuba Mirum.

At the end, it was clear that the musicians and the audience had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Pulling together an event like this, where choirs and orchestra rehearse separately until near the performance, is no mean achievement. This was an outstanding event, and credit should be given to David Burgess, Paul Timms and Graham Kidd who rehearsed the individual choirs.

Keith Tomkinson and Mike Rowland

WCFC Annual Concert  Vivaldi  Gloria and Haydn  Nelson Mass” Missa in AngustiiTorelli Trumpet Concerto in and Marcello Oboe Concerto in D minor.

WINCHESTER CITY FESTIVAL CHOIR AND ORCHESTRA

The WCFC and orchestra performed the Vivaldi “Gloria” and the Haydn “Nelson” Mass on Saturday January 30th 2016 at the Thornden Hall in Chandlers Ford The choir and orchestra responded positively to Graham Kidd’s enthusiastic musical direction. If there were one or two tentative tunings in the opening movement of the Vivaldi, these soon dispelled as the intonation in the chromatic melodic lines and also the tritones was really very good.  The fact that the two soloists, Jocelyn Somerville (Soprano) and Felicity Turner (Mezzo-soprano) used hardly any vibrato in their singing was delightfully refreshing and it was a joy to hear Baroque music sung in this way.

The two instrumental concerti that were performed between the choral works were wonderfully played and very tastefully accompanied by the orchestra.  Fiona Jones’ delightful oboe playing left the audience wanting more and Rebecca Toal’s mastery of the D Trumpet was superb.

The “Nelson”Mass by Haydn was again well sung, although occasionally a seemingly over enthusiastic tenor line left me wondering why I couldn’t hear the altos very well!  Again, all the soloists blended in together, particularly  the tenor and bass soloists when singing alone with the orchestra, and they in turn were well supported by some very competent playing.  The orchestra noticeably supported the choir which was really pleasing to the ear.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, acknowledged by an appreciative audience, and this choir and orchestra are certainly worth listening to.  Graham Kidd did an excellent job as conductor.

Duncan Bradley

BRAHMS Requiem & PARRY Blest Pair of Sirens, Winchester Cathedral 16th May 2015 Click here for review.

WINCHESTER CITY FESTIVAL CHOIR: Tsunami Tribute, Saturday 31 January 2015

It is always rewarding to encounter impressive new repertoire when listening to local choirs’ performances.  Winchester City Festival Choir chose to mark the tenth anniversary of the Asian Tsunami with a piece for adult and youth choirs, organ, brass and percussion premiered in the Royal Festival Hall in 2008.  Chris Williams’s Tsunami Requiem is an accessible yet powerful evocation of how humble people’s lives were disrupted by the force of nature, combining English and Latin texts.  The scoring was transparent enough to allow voices to carry over the bright instrumental accompaniment and the well-focused voices of Cantare, twelve girls from Romsey School, also made their presence felt.

Cantare was magnificent on its own in two Adiemus items by Karl Jenkins.  Singing from memory and with confident but not obtrusive solo voices they were a credit to their director Amy Thompson.

The adults offered a modern sacred piece at the start of each half of this programme. David Briggs’ O Lord support us was very moving but Paul Mealor’s Royal Wedding anthem, Ubi caritas, is not for choirs faint of heart or intonation and adding organ support only underlined pitch insecurities.

WCFC saved its best for last.  The choir exuded confidence and strength in John Rutter’s brilliant Gloria, using the same instrumental forces as the Requiem.  Balance was good between voices and accompaniment as well as healthy articulation of the Latin words.  Joyous precision in Rutter’s syncopations was achieved by almost all the singers.  Even the challenging final fugue came together, in no small measure due to the immaculate conducting of Graham Kidd.

The brass ensemble alone was slow to settle into a Japanese folksong arrangement but provided responsive support in both the main choir items, especially the Rutter.

Apart from distracting disagreements over stands and sits and the fact that St. Swithun’s arts’ centre’s subdued lighting prevented listeners reading the important Requiem words in their programmes this was a creditable and innovative evening.

 Derek Beck

Annual Concert, Saturday 31st January 2015: (Gloria, Tsunami Requiem, Ubi caritas, O Lord, support us)

“Saturday was a blast… …firm fans in the audience… …much moved by the Tsunami Requiem but enjoyed the whole programme.”     (G&T)

“Congrats on last night. Fabulous.”        (PH)

“my guests… …really enjoyed it and found the Tsunami Requiem particularly moving – as did I.”           (CRW)

“The concert was super… …what I did really like was the north/south of the mouths. Very noticeable. You can quote me on that. ‘mother’ was a poignant moment” (Michael Waterson)

“…well thought out programme with many excellent moments and plenty to engage”  (Derek Beck)

“A pleasure, any time!!! I did indeed (enjoy the nice chords)”  (Lauren Chinn – 2nd trumpet)

“I really enjoyed the concert. It’s nice to have plenty to do”  (Huw Llewellyn – 1st trombone)

“Enjoyed playing tonight, the choir were very friendly.”  (Graham Brown – 1st trumpet)

“Very enjoyable indeed.”    (Mark Streather – percussion)

“…was great to be a part of it”     (Jamie Langridge – 3rd trumpet)

Concert at Winchester Cathedral, Saturday 10th May 2014

(Winchester & County Music Festival)

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS A Sea Symphony and STANFORD Songs of the Fleet

This concert was an unusual treat, providing the opportunity to hear two works which are not performed as often as they deserve. Also, since Stanford was Vaughan Williams’ composition teacher, there was a special chance for comparison.

Once again, the organisers of the Festival, and especially Derek Beck, achieved the feat of getting separately rehearsed choirs – from Itchen Valley, Overton, Sarisbury, Twyford and Winchester – to produce very good performances. The soloists – Cecilia Osmond, soprano, and Stephen Gadd, baritone – added considerable lustre, their graceful yet powerful strength of tone often soaring over the combined forces of full choir and orchestra to wonderful effect.

C.V. Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet are settings of poems by Henry Newbolt.  In these Stephen Gadd gave clear accounts of youthful expectation, the enthusiasms of service life and leadership, and in the last song, the sadness of the loss of comrades. These achieved the needed depth of feeling and clear changes of mood.  In these, the choirs sang refrains which echoed each verse very movingly, especially in the last song, Farewell.

The thrilling fanfare and choir  opening of Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony  –  Behold, the sea  –  is surely one of the most vivid evocations of the power of the sea in music, and this set the tone for a lyrical and moving performance. For Whitman, there is spiritual significance in the universality of the seas to which all nations and people are linked, and ultimately recognise their vast  similitude.

After the first movement’s stunning opening, Cecilia Osmond’s solo passages declaiming the flags of nations came over with ringing clarity.  In the reflective second movement, On the beach at night alone, the semi-chorus (provided by the chamber choir Viva Voces) provided beautifully balanced support to Stephen Gadd’s thoughtful solo work.  This contrasted vividly with the strong vast similitude entry by the full chorus, carrying Whitman’s words powerfully.

In the third movement, the tempo makes great demands on orchestra and choir alike, and both conveyed the sea’s restless movement.  In the longer last movement, The Explorers, VW uses all the resources to declaim the journey of the soul, and choir and orchestra achieved wonderful climaxes, with the soloists carrying long lines over full forces with great power.

Inner choir parts were often very impressive.  The Festival Orchestra led by Elizabeth Flower provided effective and often thrilling support throughout, as always. Many thanks for a truly exciting and rewarding performance!

Geoffrey Bennetts

Concert on Saturday 1st February 2014

A meticulously planned and prepared concert satisfied a large audience in the excellent Harvey Hall of St. Swithun’s School.  Items ranged from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries and in addition to four choral items from the evening’s promoters, Winchester City Festival Choir, there were two zestful instrumental pieces.  The latter included Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D for four hands, on this occasion provided by the choir’s accompanist Gilly Slot and its conductor Graham Kidd.  Energy and clarity marked their interpretation and these qualities carried through to the rest of the well-paced programme.

The evening opened with Gabrieli’s In Ecclesiis for voices, organ and brass ensemble.  To suggest St. Mark’s, Venice, where the composer was organist, Graham placed trumpets and trombones in opposing galleries whilst on-stage were the full choir and a superb young vocal quartet together with organ continuo (Gilly Slot).  This was an imposing start with tight choral ensemble and stylish solo singing.

Sadly, modern brass instruments are infinitely brighter than their Renaissance predecessors which at times disadvantaged the quartet.

Bruckner’s 1854 motet Libera me made a darker end-of-first half.  Intonation and balance would have been better served if the three trombones had played across the stage facing the continuo strings and organ rather than directly into the audience. This was the choir’s most challenging contribution and it still demonstrated good diction and secure ensemble.  The sunnier text of Pergolesi’s (or Durante’s !) early eighteenth century Magnificat brought more positive choral tone to the proceedings and benefited from the  support of the string orchestra with organ as well as all four soloists.

The violins, cellos and double bass offered a splendid movement from Rossini’s first String Sonata of 1804.  There was operatic colour and strong momentum aplenty and good balance between sections  –  none able to avoid the technical demands of this entertaining work.

The concert concluded with the full chamber orchestra accompanying Mozart’s beautiful Solemn Vespers, K.339.  Graham directed this entirely from memory and if more of his choristers had followed his example the effect would have been even more vivid.  This was again very well prepared and paced.  Of the soloists, soprano Alexandra Stevenson was magnificent throughout but well matched by Adrian Green’s resonant and authentic tenor and the highly experienced Nicholas Pepin. counter-tenor and Edmund Saddington, bass.  The master-mind behind this enjoyable event remained Graham Kidd whose precise and supportive direction was all a choir could wish for.

 Derek Beck

Concert at Romsey Abbey, Saturday 11th May 2013

(Winchester & County Music Festival)

The combined choirs of Overton Choral Society, Sarisbury Choral Society and the Winchester Festival Choir met in the splendid Romanesque surroundings of Romsey Abbey, together with the Winchester Festival Orchestra under the direction of Graham Kidd to present a concert of two less well-known works from the repertoire.

The first half comprised Beethoven’s Mass in C, written while Beethoven was still a young composer, but which displays nevertheless music of mature insight bearing the hallmarks of the composer’s style.

The choirs managed some sensitive dynamic control and effective phrase shaping, contrasted with suitably dramatic and enthusiastic singing to convey the many mood changes in the scores which is serene and lyrical at times, only to be followed later by passages of stormy drama as Beethoven seeks to match music with text.

The choirs were supported by an able group of soloists who blended musically as an ensemble, very evident in the extended solo writing of the Benedictus. The orchestra accompanied sensitively and all responded well to Graham Kidd’s clear directions

The second half was the Magnificat by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of the great Johann Sebastian. This youthful piece was written in the newly emerging ‘Classical’ style, though with evidence of the Baroque influence inherited through his father.

Here we saw sections for full choir interspersed with extended solo movements in which the obvious talents of the soloists were demonstrated. The crystal purity of Alison Hill’s soprano voice soared with exquisite phrasing in the Quia respexit, while Nick Madden, tenor, showed vocal agility and dexterity in the melismatic runs and wide ranging leaps of Qia fecti mihi magna.

The choirs, who were unoccupied for lengthy periods at times, managed rhythmic buoyancy in the faster movements and expressive singing to convey the chromatic lyricism of the Et misericordia.

The orchestra played its role commendably and Graham Kidd managed the forces under his control with clarity and authority. The performers were rewarded with prolonged applause from an appreciative audience.

Jeffrey Williams

Concert at St. Swithun’s, Saturday 26th January 2013

For their annual concert at St. Swithun’s the City Festival Choir, now in its 90th year, turned in a stirring performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana as their main work. Conductor Graham Kidd captured the urgency and drive of the incessant rhythms and he had obviously drilled the choir well with the sudden changes of tempo demanded in so many of the movements. The tenors and basses acquitted themselves with appropriate gusto in the tavern scene and the difficult unaccompanied six-part chorus near the end was admirably done. Credit also to the ladies for hitting their frequent high notes with such a good tone. Soprano Rosalind Coad gave a fine rendition of her solos, capturing the tender quality well, even in the infamous stratospheric final solo. Paul du Plessis-Smith, counter-tenor, sang the challenging part of the roasted swan and William Houghton, baritone, sang with conviction. It was good to hear Orff’s splendid work in its reduced alternative scoring for two pianos and percussion, giving an added edge to the driving rhythms.

Earlier in the evening we were treated to Bob Chilcott’s African-inspired piece The Making of the Drum. The complex rhythms were vigorously punched out by the choir and, with only a marimba for accompaniment – full marks to Greg Felton for some virtuoso playing, – the choir deserve all credit for tackling this challenging work.

This imaginative programming was complemented by Alan Pring’s trumpet recital piece for his son, Peter, entitled Fourth Dimension. Accompanied by piano, timpani and five percussionists, Peter Pring delivered his solo part with style and panache. Two short items from the Romsey Abbey girls’ choir filled out a most enjoyable evening.

Duncan Eves

Concert at Winchester Cathedral, Saturday 12th May 2012
(Winchester and County Music Festival)

Now in its ninth decade, this joyous celebration of choral singing, featuring the joint choirs of Botley, Compton and Shawford, Itchen Valley, Overton, Sarisbury, Twyford and Winchester, brought an ambitious programme of 19th and 20th century French choral works to Winchester Cathedral under the inspired direction of Derek Beck.

Bizet’s Te Deum and Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass are unjustly neglected works and they offered the chorus the opportunity for singing that was both rousing and meditative. The three soloists blended well in the Crucifixus section of the Gounod Mass. Bass Michael Bundy displayed a full and rounded tone and tenor Edward Goater produced a bright, incisive sound. Soprano Anna Dennis caught the gentle mood of the Benedictus most beautifully. The orchestra had its moments of glory too and there were several passages of excellent solo work from various players.

Poulenc’s Gloria, written in the late 1950’s, presents a challenge with its rhythmic and harmonic complexities and this came across well despite the blurring of the detail in the acoustic. The chorus captured the vitality of the piece and the orchestra delivered the jazz-inflected rhythms with gusto. Anna Dennis gave a meltingly beautiful rendition of the solo part – it felt as though this music could have been written for her voice and she conveyed a commanding presence as her brilliant top notes penetrated down the nave.

The final rousing chorus of the Gounod Mass had its patriotic words about the French Republic suitably amended to celebrate this Royal Jubilee year. With its military band-style orchestration it made a fitting conclusion to a fine concert. It is so good to see the amateur choral music scene positively thriving in Hampshire.

Duncan Eves

Concert at St. Swithun’s, 28th January 2012

On a cold January evening the audience at Harvey Hall, St Swithun’s School, gave a warm reception to a mixed programme of choral music conducted by Graham Kidd. The concert opened with Schubert’s Magnificat, a work displaying the lyricism that is so associated with this composer. Soprano, Alison Hill, gave a radiant account of her florid solo part with some fine oboe playing in the accompaniment. The two movements from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater also featured Alison Hill, demonstrating her purity of tone, and blending well with the rich tonal quality of mezzo Carris Jones.

After the joyous sound of the Schubert the choir gave us the Mozart Litaniae Lauretanae and there was some splendid singing from the four soloists. Tenor Nick Madden had a lovely Italianate operatic tone and bass Timothy Dickinson produced a full rich sound. Tavener’s Song for Athene and Britten’s A Hymn to the Virgin featured the chorus in a cappella mode. Both pieces offer challenges to the singers and the choir rose to the occasion. The great blocks of sound in the Tavener made their essential impact in a full choral tone and the basses are to be congratulated on sustaining their very low notes with tonal depth.

The main work in the programme was Haydn’s ‘Maria Theresa‘ Mass, a joyous work from the later years of the composer’s life. The spirited singing of the Gloria and the Sanctus was balanced with the power and splendour of the Credo. There was some lovely violin playing in the Benedictus and the trumpets and drums created a stirring martial sound in the Dona nobis pacem. Soloists and chorus clearly enjoyed this work and, after the gravitas of the Agnus dei, the final section pulsed with energy. This was the first outing for Graham Kidd as conductor of the City Festival Choir and he is to be congratulated on enthusing his forces to such committed performances.

Duncan Eves