Ardingly Choral Society, Mid Sussex Sinfonia, Ardingly Prep and Ashdown House School choirs combined to deliver another memorable Remembrance Day Concert at the Dolphin Centre in Haywards Heath this year under the baton of Robert Hammersley. The inclusion of performers of all ages in this annual concert, now in its 17th year, was good to see and a reminder that the act of remembrance benefits from being shared across the generations.
The programme opened with the combined choirs singing Hammersley's Remembrance, a moving setting of a verse from Laurence Binyon's famous poem For the Fallen. The sound was well-balanced and disciplined, generating the required dramatic impact of the words.
Britten's collection of six short songs entitled Friday Afternoons was written in 1935 for a boys' prep school in Wales, who practised on Friday afternoons. The school choirs sang these witty songs with great enthusiasm, clearly enjoying themselves under the direction of Stephen Smith and Richard Fitt. Max Kenworthy supplied a sympathetic and skilful accompaniment..
Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, Verdi's Triumphal Scene from Aida and the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco are all well-known opera choruses which place significant demands on both orchestra and chorus. Borodin's transitions from the lyrical singing of the slave girls in the Gliding Dance of the Maidens to the complex, rapid rhythms of the warriors in Wild Dance of the Men were handled well by both orchestra and chorus to produce an exciting result. Bass soloist, Andrew Rupp, was suitably boastful as the great Konchak returning from war with his captives. The sharp difference in mood between the choruses from Aida and Nabucco was captured by the performers, with the trumpets in the gallery announcing the triumphal return of Ramedès being particularly effective. The school choirs combined well with the choral society in the Nabucco to express the lamentation of the Jews in exile.
The first half of the concert ended with Parry's Jerusalem sung with great enthusiasm by all present.
The chorus and orchestra were joined after the interval by soloists Eloise Irving, soprano, Jane Haughton, alto, Andrew Sinclair, tenor and Andrew Rupp, bass for Mozart's Requiem Mass, a work which never fails to inspire. It contains some wonderful choral writing and the contrast between, for example, the Dies Irae and the Lacrymosa was captured well. The robust entries required in the Rex Tremendae and Confutatis Maledictis were there although in the softer passages there seemed, sometimes, to be an element of uncertainty. The soloists did not disappoint, with the Benedictus, in particular, beautifully sung and full of careful phrasing. The orchestra, under the leadership of Martin Palmer, provided a secure foundation for the chorus and soloists right through to the affirmative Lux Aeterna with its complex and wonderful final fugue.