HATHERSAGE CHOIR Presented A Summer Concert ‘All things bright and beautiful,ice and snow - An English Summer!’ Hathersage Memorial Hall at 7.30 Saturday 2nd June 2018 Musical Director Kate Mercer and accompanist Carol Reid Soloists - Milly McCartney and Ella Moran accompanied by Simon Mercer The programme included Andrew Carter's choral work "Benedicite" for choir and young soloists, a selection of works by John Rutter, Edward Elgar, Arthur Sullivan and Howard Goodall with some piano duets and solo items from the shows
Most of the first half of the concert was taken up by Andrew Carter’s Benedicite: eleven short stanzas of the form - “O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him forever.” No two stanzas are identical, in rhythm or melody. It was difficult to get a sense of how the stanzas worked until we had a feeling for the overall shape of the piece and difficult to do that until we were better acquainted with the detail. The finished thing was superb. Each stanza worked in its own right and took its place in the flow of the whole, all entries crisp, rhythm and dynamics coherent, nice balance across all four voices. But it could so easily have dragged. A bold choice.
The choir and audience enjoyed the contributions of Milly McCartney and Ella Moran, who displayed enviable confidence as well as excellent singing and musicianship. Their solos were remarkable, but perhaps more impressive was their role in Benedicite, in which, supported by Kate, they filled the slot described as “children’s choir”. For the bulk of the piece, fifty or more grown-ups sang this difficult music only to step aside for a couple of stanzas so that these two young women could constitute a whole choir in their own right. A bold choice.
Benedicite focused attention on sounds as well as meanings. The repeated 's' and 'n' sounds in the stanza Snow and Ice, began to feel cold. The long sounds in the ocean stanzas were evocative of whale songs. Badgers and hedgehogs was a particular delight.
(Your correspondent experienced this concert from the body of the hall, so he feels no compunction whatever in praising the performance. The rest of the audience evidently shared his view.)
The second half was topped and tailed with thought-provoking madrigals. "When torrents in summer" is stoical-optimistic. When things have been going badly for you, with God’s help they might go better. "The long day closes" is stoical-pessimistic. Things have been going badly for you. They will get worse. Better go to bed. These are beautiful poems and their settings are appropriate to their words, so no one will ever go home whistling "The long day closes". But choir and audience ended the evening with a stirring rendition of Jerusalem, which you can whistle on your way home.
We have often praised the musicianship of Kate, our musical director, and Carol, our accompanist, and expressed a wish that they might have a slot in a programme in their own right so we enjoyed their piano duets. Some of their pieces however, half remembered, took us back more years than we care to calculate.
Kate has completed the yearly cycle: Spring Workshop, Summer Concert, Christmas Concert. She is no longer “the new conductor”. We look forward to a long and exhilarating relationship.