What have we done? What's been sung and what's to be said?
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
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.
RVW150 - April 2022
Celebrating 150 years of Ralph Vaughan Williams Sidmouth Choral Society presented some of his finest works, accompanied by a 52-piece session orchestra; including:
Dona Nobis Pacem
Five Mystical Songs
Toward the Unknown Region
The Lark Ascending
Violin - Amber Randall
Soprano - Chloe Stratta
Baritone - Freddie Crowley
Benjamin Britten's sublime Ceremony of Carols, presented alongside the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols and other seasonal music from Carols for Choirs 5 and Eric Whiteacre's serene Seal Lullaby, accompanied by fairy queen herself Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.
"I was part of a large and appreciative audience at Sidmouth Choral Society’s concert on Saturday, none of us put off by the badly-timed torrential downpour.
It was so lovely to hear a proper choral production with the choir close to us and singing brilliantly unhindered by too much orchestration. Kris Emmett, the Conductor and Musical Director, sensitively and enthusiastically united the choir with talented musicians, including the harpist, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, who was amazing and fitted with the programme so well. I was blown away by her rendition of La Source – what a great piece to choose to perform and so fitting.
The special choral moments for me – when all voices blended so beautifully – were the two Rutter pieces (New Year and What Sweeter Music), Simon Mold’s Candlelight Carol and the particularly moving Seal Lullaby (by Eric Whitacre) – a real ‘tingle factor’ for me. Loved the Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia at the end.
I’m a great fan of accompanist Andrew Benoy, which is why I always place myself close to the organ and he didn’t disappoint. I loved the ‘feet only’ start to the last piece, I believe, where he used this technique to compensate for the missing cello – amazing."
The Creation - April 2019
The Choral Society's first full-length major work for choir, orchestra and soloists was Haydn's Creation, opening with Insanae et vanae curae from his first oratorio Il Ritorno Di Tobia.
Soprano - Anna Gregory
Tenor - Matthew Jeffery
Baritone - Freddie Crowley
"The choir wishes to thank Keith Orrell for reviewing our concerts over the past few years. This is his final piece:
The Spring concert of the Sidmouth Choral Society in Sidmouth Parish Church was devoted to Joseph Haydn’s late choral masterpiece Creation. The soloists were Anna Gregory (soprano), Matthew Jeffrey (tenor) and Freddie Crowley (bass), plus an orchestra of some 30 players all under the very able musical direction of Kris Emmett.
As a prelude to the main work the choir introduced Haydn’s earlier musical style by singing his dramatic motet Insanae et vanae curae (Frantic and futile anxieties). This work is in two very contrasting sections, a fast dramatic one ‘of fear and dread’ and a more lyrical one ‘God is on our side’, and the choir captured this contrast most effectively.
Creation then followed, and after an extended orchestral introduction representing chaos, the choir entered, and at the words ‘and there was light’, delivered the massive fortissimo C major chord with great effect. It doesn’t seem too fanciful to suggest that this dramatic moment encapsulates the modern ‘Big Bang’ interpretation of the creation story in contrast to the biblical version which obviously inspired Haydn to produce this choral masterpiece in 1775.
The three parts of the work describe the six days of creation and the appearance of Adam and Eve singing about the wonder of the newly created world and of their happiness together.
Part two includes musical depictions of storm scenes, sun rises, and various birds, animals and fish. These were most expressively sung by the soloists accompanied by Haydn’s delightful orchestral colouring. All three soloists, who play a major role in this work, were notable for the strength and clarity of their vocal deliveries, their very characterful interpretations and the blending of their voices in the trio sections.
The choir’s role in the work is mainly in the famous choruses such as ‘Awake the Harp’, ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’, ‘The Lord is great’ and ‘Achieved is the glorious work’. All these were sung with great passion, precise diction and timing, and evident pleasure. With the final chorus ‘Sing the Lord, ye voices all’, they brought the concert to a resounding and joyful conclusion. The scale of this oratorio is a major challenge for amateur soloists, choirs and orchestra, and this performance was a notable success that was clearly enjoyed by the large audience."
Vivaldi Gloria - Christmas 2018
Kris's opening gambit as Musical Director for the choir was the performance of Vivaldi's better-known Gloria in Excelsis Deo, alongside carols and other exciting Christmas music, performed to high-acclaim from an appreciative audience.
Soprano - Chloe Stratta
Mezzo-soprano - Alexandra Beaufoy
Alto - Jane Anderson-Brown
"The recent concert of the Sidmouth Choral Society in the Parish Church marked the start of a new phase in its long and distinguished history. The concert was under the baton of the Society’s new Musical Director, Kris Emmett, who directed his 66-strong choir, soloists Chloe Stratta (soprano), Alexandra Beaufoy (mezzo soprano), Jane Anderson-Brown (alto) and organist Andy Benoy. Kris showed how Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, despite being composed some 300 years ago, was such an inspired work that sounded asfresh to 21st Century ears as when it was first composed.
It was written while Vivaldi was employed at the Ospedale della Pietà, an institution in Venice for the care and musical training of abandoned girls. Its twelve movements are full of distinctive melodies and rhythms that have universal appeal. The musical score was not discovered until the 1920s and not performed until 1939, since when it has enjoyed great popularity.
The choir’s performance was noteworthy for its enthusiastic but beautifully balanced singing and clear diction. Chloe Stratta’s soprano voice was particularly suited to the Laudamus te and Domine Deus movements. The rhythmic pulse of much of the work was effectively provided by the ensemble of eight members of the Plymouth University Orchestra of which Kris is Assistant Conductor.
The remainder of the concert was devoted to seasonal music, but before that the audience enjoyed a contrasting interlude of two jazz preludes (Bossa Novaand Afro-Cuban) played with great flair by Andy Benoy.
Elijah - Spring 2018
Bidding farewell to long-standing Musical Director Dorothy Worthington was always going to be an emotional affair and we sent her off with a bang.
Soloists - Bethany Partridge, Arianwen Ramaruttun, Pip Gascoigne-Pees, Edward Coton, Julian Rippon
"Anticipation of Sidmouth Choral Society's performance of Elijah was heightened by the rumbling of thunder as the audience arrived at Sidmouth Parish Church. However, meteorological issues were laid to rest in favour of higher spiritual matters as the choir launched into the first chorus Help, Lord! Wilt thou quite destroy us? This marked the start of the final concert under the direction of Musical Director and Conductor, Dorothy Worthington, who is retiring after nine highly successful years of leading this local choral society and its supporting musicians in some 17 concerts. I feel it is not too fanciful to reflect that the strong character of the prophet Elijah through whom, according to Holy Scriptures, God performed many miracles, also reflects the indomitable personality of Dorothy herself, who has achieved many musical miracles with her choir!
This final performance was no exception. Her infectious enthusiasm for music and music- making was vividly evident throughout the concert. She was greatly aided by the bass baritone, Julian Rippon, in his impressive portrayal of the title role, with its strong expressions of anguish, anger and sympathy, all of which he provided in great measure. The other soloists, Bethany Partridge (soprano, who stood in at very short notice and sang outstandingly), Pip Gascoigne-Pees (alto/mezzo) and Edward Coton (tenor) also played key roles and combined beautifully in the duet, trio and quartet sections, some also involving choir soloists, Joan Edgecumbe, Pauline Belton, Pippa Jones, Roger Worthington, Glyn Lewis, Andrew Scott and Peter Atkinson and guest Leslie Baker. Mention must also be made to the important contributions of Robert Millington (organ) and Ruth James who led the most excellent orchestral support.
Part 1 of the oratorio includes dramatic episodes such as the resurrection of a dead youth, the contest of the gods, in which Jehovah consumes an offered sacrifice in a column of fire, a sequence of increasingly frantic prayers by the prophets of the god Baal, and the bringing of rain to parched Israel, all depicted in choruses such as Blessed are the Men Who Fear Him, Baal We Cry To Thee, and Thanks Be To God. A feature was the sensitive singing from the church pulpit of the 'youth' performed by Arianwen Ramaruttun from the Exeter Cathedral School.
Part 2 depicts the prosecution of Elijah by Queen Jezebel, his vigil in the desert, his return, and his ascension on a fiery chariot into heaven, all expressed in many memorable and much loved solos and choruses. The final challenging chorus And Then Shall Your Light Break Forth brought this concert to a triumphant end.
This inspired work was a fitting end to Dorothy's time with Sidmouth Choral Society. The beautiful balanced singing and excellent diction of her choir was apparent throughout, and the sheer pleasure that was shown by all choir members was a great tribute to Dorothy's control and nurturing of her local talent. As noted in the concert programme, the Society has enjoyed many years of happy music-making with Dorothy, during which time choir numbers have almost doubled. That speaks for itself! I just want to reiterate what has already been mentioned to Dorothy by others. 'You have continued the great musical tradition in Sidmouth and now deserve a well earned rest, which I doubt for temperamental reasons you will achieve!'"
Poulenc Gloria, Handel Messiah - Christmas 2018
"Sidmouth Choral Society under its indefatigable Music Director and Conductor, Dorothy Worthington, certainly doesn't rest on its laurels. As part of their Christmas concert this year they chose to perform Gloria by the 20th Century French composer, Francis Poulenc. Its text is the Roman Catholic Mass Ordinary and is in six short movements. The work requires a sizeable choir and orchestra and the Choral Society's performance would have been a revelation to those in the audience not familiar with the work, as it is so immediately likeable. The important solo soprano part was ideally suited to Chloe Stratta, whose soaring, sustained singing, particularly in the third section, Domine Deus, was most memorable. Her soprano tones also combined beautifully with the choir in the exquisite Domine Deus, Agnus Dei and the final section Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris which, after an animated start, ends very peacefully. So ended a notable musical experience in which the choir (including a quartet of soloists), the soprano soloist, a sizeable orchestra, ably led by Ruth James, and the conductor, Dorothy Worthington, all played their crucial roles with enormous success.
The concert then turned to more familiar repertoire with Christmas music from Handel's Messiah, in which Chloe Stratta again demonstrated her beautiful soprano voice, and the choir sang with much control, balance and exceptionally clear diction.
The programme after the interval was devoted to Christmas carols and hymns that were most sensitively accompanied on the organ by John Draisey, who also played a key role with the orchestra in the Gloria. Dorothy chose an interesting collection of carols, old and new, some familiar and others less so. Some were sung beautifully by the choir alone, others also involved the audience, and it did seem that the musical success of the first half of the programme had even inspired the audience participation this year to be of a higher standard than last Christmas!
The concert closed with Dorothy mentioning that their next will be a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah on Saturday 21 April in Sidmouth Parish Church, but sadly it will be her last with the Society.
A retiring collection was made in aid of the Gateway Homelessness Action Group, a most worthy local charity that supports homeless people in Sidmouth.