Musical Reviews

Hook Choral Society 30th Anniversary Concert

Congratulations go to Hook Choral Society as on Saturday 23rd November, 2019 at All Saints Church, Odiham, they celebrated their 30th Anniversary with a fabulous concert.

Musical director and organist Nicholas Woods presented a programme that showcased the choir at their very best.  The programme included the recently composed major choral work the ‘Christmas Oratorio’ by the English composer Bob Chilcott, and Hook Choral Society were honoured and delighted to welcome him as the conductor of his ‘Christmas Oratorio’ in the second half of the concert.

To a packed audience, the evenings’ music commenced with an Anthem by John Tavener, ‘Mother of God Here I Stand’ and is from The Veil of the Temple.  This hauntingly beautiful work was sung with great balance between the vocal parts and excellent annunciation.

There followed the chorus by Mendelsohn ‘For He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over Thee’ which is taken from his oratorio Elijah. The choir produced some lovely dynamics in this uplifting piece.

Mozart wrote the ‘Laudate Dominum’ in 1780 as part of the Vesperae solennes de confessore K. 339. The choir were joined by the soprano Bethan Thomas, whose beautifully clear vocal tone was perfectly suited to the ethereal quality of the music.

The first half of the concert concluded with two more works; ‘Bogoroditse Devo’ by Rachmaninoff and ‘Only in Sleep’ by the contemporary Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. Both works illustrated the ability of the choir to sing with well-shaped phrases, sensitive dynamics and there was a wonderful, warm sonority in the Ešenvalds that was particularly enjoyable. The choir sensitively accompanied the delicate solo soprano voice of Rebecca White.

The 30th Anniversary of the Choral Society demands a significant celebration and this celebration inspired a very special guest; the world-renowned composer Bob Chilcott.

To spontaneous applause, Nicholas Woods introduced ‘the legend that is Bob Chilcott’ who then proceeded to direct the audience in an impromptu rehearsal of the hymns that he has included in his featured work of the second half- the ‘Christmas Oratorio.’

Bob Chilcott is a warm and energizing character and after the break we were all eager to hear the performance of the Christmas Oratorio.  The choir were accompanied on the flute by Rachel Smith, the harp played by Jenny Broome and the organ, played by Nicholas Woods, and the vocal soloists were Bethan Thomas, Rebecca White, Harry Ross, Meilir Jones and Guy Withers.

The oratorio is very attractive to listen to and belies the difficulties in the compositional writing. The close harmonies were never jarring but shimmered through the choir and illuminated the text. The beautiful ‘Love came down at Christmas’ for solo soprano with harp accompaniment, was simply gorgeous.  Throughout the work we heard many exquisite melodies and lovely countermelodies. Hook Choral Society sang the oratorio magnificently and really rose to the occasion.

The young soloists all gave performances; the narrator Guy Withers was particularly notable for his ability to fully communicate the sentiment behind the text.  Congratulations Hook Choral Society!