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Review by Roger Hendy - Musical Director of the ISCA Ensemble,

and viola player in the ISCA Quartet

"The Sidmouth Choral Society under its new and very able Musical Director David Davies with soloists Bel Hartley, Maria Brown, Michael Graham and Matthew Cann, gave a highly polished and memorable performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in Sidmouth Parish Church on Saturday 27th April.

 

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is among the most frequently performed choral works of the Western musical tradition and the challenge of rendering it fresh and alive today is monumental. The composition was famously (and still astonishingly) completed in just over three weeks, receiving its first performance in Dublin in 1742.

 

The energy required for that formidable achievement seemed to have infused the Sidmouth choir and soloists, as they approached the oratorio with passion and a real sense of commitment. The Sidmouth forces rose magnificently to the challenge of Handel’s masterpiece, bringing in turn excitement and anticipation, heart-breaking sadness and, ultimately, triumph.

 

Well-chosen tempi and meticulous attention to dynamics brought with it moments of freshness as well as enhanced musical drama.

There was never a dull moment. - clarity, precision, expressiveness, and communication – all necessary elements for an effective performance were well observed.

 

The choir sang confidentially with excellent diction, watching the conductor intently and responding instantly to his every ask of them, whether for a powerful, confident lead, a sudden burst of sound, or a dramatic pianissimo.

 

Enjoyed by a capacity audience this was a performance presented with enormous attention to detail and nuance and must surely rate as one of the society’s highest achievements.

All four soloists together with brilliant organ accompaniment by Geoffrey Morgan, and continuo by Andrew Benoy, contributed to a presentation which was enlightening from beginning to end.

 

The combined forces under David Davis should be proud of taking many Messiah aficionados so ably to that place where time, for a moment, stood still and allowed us to reflect on one of the seven wonders of musical history.

 

Roger Hendy"

Our Concert at Sidmouth Parish Church

Saturday 29th April 2023

to celebrate

The Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort

Review Received  2nd May 2023

"Having been unable to sing with the choral society this year, I was asked to do a review having experienced the music from a wooden pew rather than the platform. The lady behind me had brought a trusty cushion specifically kept for the occasion, a helpful hint for future concert goers. I am no expert in choral music but I have been an enthusiastic singer since I joined my church choir as a teenager.
As I have come to expect, the choice of music was complex and challenging with well loved pieces interspersed with lesser known gems. The orchestra was a perfect combination of instruments which complemented the choir beautifully and was expertly blended by Kris Emmett.
In the first half the four coronation anthems were sung enthusiastically with the juxtaposition of parts working well. Zadok the Priest was a glorious celebration sung with confidence and joy. I felt the final anthem was a little more hesitant in parts. I struggled to hear all the words as the volume dropped, due I felt to uncertainty on the part of some choir members. I also felt that there could have been a little more light and shade which Kris was leading, but was missed by singers looking up too infrequently from their scores. However, the choir excelled with the final two pieces. I particularly enjoyed Gloria and was happily prepared to accept the tenuous link to Scotland.
The second half started well although I would have welcomed a drink and a mince pie as was offered at the interval of the Christmas concert. I must admit I was a little disappointed with “Wherever you are” which has such poignancy, as again there was some hesitancy.
The final Coronation Mass was sung exceptionally well particularly as there were complications due to the words as well as the music. It had many highlights with its haunting melodies and soaring hosannas. I really enjoyed the solo parts sung by groups within the choir.
Overall, this was an enjoyable celebratory evening as the choir excelled in mastering so many classic and complex pieces of music. My only comment would be that either more time or less pieces would have enabled the choir to achieve an even higher standard of excellence. Thank you everyone. I look forward to joining you all again in September.
Lesley."

OUR FIRST WORKSHOP

We had our very first workshop on Saturday 20th April 2024 and what a wonderful day it was!

Our MD, David Davies led us on a fascinating journey through the Messiah, explaining many techniques and singing methods as we sang some of the tricker movements. He also explained so much about Handel and the Messiah, where it came from and how it was received in 1742 when first performed in Dublin.

Along with our excellent accompanist, Andy Benoy on the piano, we thoroughly enjoyed our singing and valued the useful practice for our concert next week.

It was also a great social occasion, when we met with visitors who had come to sing with us, sharing stories and experiences of other choirs and just generally enjoying each other’s company.

We were grateful for the volunteers who sorted out the refreshments and the members who baked some amazing cakes!

All in all then, it was a major success and it is certainly something we can do again. We learned so much, and David showed just what an extraordinarily talented musician he is.

Our 2023 Christmas event was a great success, when a packed Parish Church enjoyed a wide selection of Christmas Music, and some wonderful solo performances on the magnificent organ by our accompanist, Andy Benoy, who has been with us since 2018. He studied music at Exeter University, while gaining an honours degree in physics. Andy was Choir Master and Church Organist at St Michael's Church, Watford, for 41 years, whilst also working as a research scientist.

Our guest conductor was Richard Burdett, who was Director of Music at Bournemouth School for Girls before moving to Sidmouth. He is deputy director with the Orlando Singers and also works with the St David's Singers, in Exeter. Additionally, he is rehearsal pianist for the Ottery St Mary Choral Society.

 

This is what we sang:-

Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Wright

Come thou long expected Jesus - Bullard

The Angels Carol - John Rutter

God rest you merry gentlemen

A little child there is yborn - Archer

Away in a manger - Bullard

There is a rose tree - Bullard

Candelight Carol - John Rutter

In the bleak midwinter - Gustav Holst

Lo He comes with clouds descending - Bullard

Personent Hodie - Anon

Silent Night - Chilcott

It came upon the midnight clear - Scott

The Bell Carol - Ledger

O Come all ye faithful - Ledger

O Holy Night - Adolphe Adam

Joy to the world - Wilberg

Love shone down - Piercey/de Whalley

In the first and second halves, our Accompanist Andy Benoy gave some beautiful solo organ recitals:-

Organ Interlude 1

The Christmas Song - Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, arr. Carl Elmer/Andrew Benoy
Sleigh Ride - Leroy Anderson, arr. Thomas Trotter

Organ Interlude 2

Handel Stranded ‘The Queen of Sheba goes out on the town’ - Andrew Benoy
Winter Wonderland - Dick Smith and Felix Bernard, arr. Klaus Wunderlich

Our Concert at Sidmouth Parish Church

Saturday 29th April 2023

to celebrate

The Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort

Review Received  2nd May 2023

"Having been unable to sing with the choral society this year, I was asked to do a review having experienced the music from a wooden pew rather than the platform. The lady behind me had brought a trusty cushion specifically kept for the occasion, a helpful hint for future concert goers. I am no expert in choral music but I have been an enthusiastic singer since I joined my church choir as a teenager.
As I have come to expect, the choice of music was complex and challenging with well loved pieces interspersed with lesser known gems. The orchestra was a perfect combination of instruments which complemented the choir beautifully and was expertly blended by Kris Emmett.
In the first half the four coronation anthems were sung enthusiastically with the juxtaposition of parts working well. Zadok the Priest was a glorious celebration sung with confidence and joy. I felt the final anthem was a little more hesitant in parts. I struggled to hear all the words as the volume dropped, due I felt to uncertainty on the part of some choir members. I also felt that there could have been a little more light and shade which Kris was leading, but was missed by singers looking up too infrequently from their scores. However, the choir excelled with the final two pieces. I particularly enjoyed Gloria and was happily prepared to accept the tenuous link to Scotland.
The second half started well although I would have welcomed a drink and a mince pie as was offered at the interval of the Christmas concert. I must admit I was a little disappointed with “Wherever you are” which has such poignancy, as again there was some hesitancy.
The final Coronation Mass was sung exceptionally well particularly as there were complications due to the words as well as the music. It had many highlights with its haunting melodies and soaring hosannas. I really enjoyed the solo parts sung by groups within the choir.
Overall, this was an enjoyable celebratory evening as the choir excelled in mastering so many classic and complex pieces of music. My only comment would be that either more time or less pieces would have enabled the choir to achieve an even higher standard of excellence. Thank you everyone. I look forward to joining you all again in September.
Lesley."

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