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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




Mendelssohn: St Paul

Winchester Cathedral, May 2017

The Winchester and County Music Festival began life in 1921 with the aim of providing an opportunity for smaller choirs to perform more demanding works which they would be unable to undertake with their own resources.  For 2017 singers from Botley, Overton, Twyford and Winchester provided a splendidly large choir to give a powerful performance in Winchester Cathedral of Mendelssohn’s rarely heard oratorio St. Paul.  Written in 1836 and first performed in that year in Dusseldorf and Liverpool and in Birmingham in 1837, the work tells the story of Paul’s persecution of the Christians, his conversion, baptism and ordination, as told in the Acts of the Apostles.

Saturday’s performance provided a successful opportunity to admire Mendelssohn’s elegance, romantic lyricism and superb control of his forces.  The chorus responded well to the dramatic numbers as well as the more reflective ones, tackling the more complex contrapuntal music well, relaxing in the chorale numbers which reflect on the story.  There was some impressive four part singing by the women’s chorus, and the gentlemen were suitably dramatic when needed.  Three soloists caught the lyrical style of their arias well, tenor Adrian Green and bass Edmund Saddington being particularly effecting in their duet ‘For so hath the Lord’.  Soprano Helen Bailey also caught the reflective, flowing melodies of her arias, even if she seemed a little less secure in some of the recitatives.  The Festival Orchestra was led by Elizabeth Flower and provided a secure and at times powerful accompaniment, underpinned by the might of the cathedral’s grand organ. There was some lovely clarinet playing in ‘O Thou, the true and only light’ and a solo cello enchanted us in ‘Be Thou faithful.’

The whole performance was directed with clarity and security by Graham Kidd, and even if Mendelssohn’s later oratorio Elijah of 1846 is the better known and more memorable work, Saturday’s performance of St. Paul was most pleasing and a welcome opportunity to hear a work which is not performed very often these days.

Martin Hall

Winchester City Festival Choir, Thornden Hall, 21 January 2017

Concert goers at the Thornden Hall were treated to some musical delights on Saturday January 21st when the Winchester City Festival Choir, under the direction of Graham Kidd, gave a really good performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle together with two operatic choruses, one by Rossini and the other by Verdi.

The concert opened with the “Prayer” from Moïse by Rossini. A delightful piece but not an easy chorus with which to start as the chromatic  lines and higher registers in the middle parts can lead to some suspect tunings.  However, the chromatics were quite safe in their intonation!  The second  chorus was that of the “Hebrew Slaves” from Nabucco.  By now the choir had warmed up and the whole piece was well controlled both in terms of tempo and dynamics.

The audience then had a real treat with a Galop -Marche by Albert Lavigniac, superbly played by Gilly Slot, Ed Slot, Graham Kidd and Sophie Ainsley playing the one piano at the same time.  Amazingly, arms, hands and fingers never seemingly got in the way in this wonderful “lollipop!”

The main work of the evening was the Petite Messe  Solenelle, again by Rossini.  This is a piece that could have stood entirely on its own in the programme without anything else, as it is neither “petite” nor “solenelle.”  It is a mammoth work scored for chorus, soloists, harmonium and piano.  Iestyn Evans did a excellent job in trying to tame a harmonium which didn’t seem to want to quieten down when accompanying some of the soloists!  The four soloists, Tamsin Steven, Lilian Sediles, Andrew Hayman and Ciaran Yeo were superb in every respect.  Rossini may have been an opera composer, but any opera style of singing was left in the opera house and everyone was treated to some absolutely delightful singing.  The choir rose to the occasion and Graham Kidd’s very infectious enthusiasm had more than a positive effect on the choir.  At the end of the concert, the busiest person on stage, Gilly Slot deserved a gold medal for her very accurate and extremely tasteful accompaniment.


See previous reviews