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Review

Music for a Summer Evening
Harrogate Choral Society and Harrogate Band
St Wilfrid's Church, Harrogate, 6 June 2009

Traditionally Yorkshire is the way I would describe the wonderful combination of brass and voices at St Wilfrid’s Church, Harrogate on Saturday 6th June 2009. Continuing to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee, Harrogate Choral Society joined forces with The Harrogate Band to give a concert of exciting and entertaining music.

The programme started with Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’. The choir with their conductor Dr Andrew Padmore, ably supported by organist Gareth Green, demonstrated why Bach works so well in an ecclesiastical setting, fulfilling totally the composers’ intention. The choir followed this with ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ by Faure and a personal favourite ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ by Mozart. After such a polished introduction to the evening, it was clear that The Harrogate Band had a lot to live up to.

Harrogate Band, however, did not disappoint and produced a rousing and ambitious opening in the form of ‘Vitae Aeternum’ by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, a brass piece with its roots in three traditional Salvation Army songs. The band made full use of its available dynamics and demonstrated some vigorous and skilful counterpoint across the band. The acoustics in St Wilfrid’s are very lively, and were on occasions difficult for the band, however, their musical director Roy Waite controlled them well and produced a moving and spiritual performance of the piece.

The band followed this with solo cornet player, Robert Illsley, performing a virtuosic rendition of the popular cornet solo ‘Napoli’ and then the band finished their first spot with ‘Cameo’ a lively and exuberant dance piece composed by Roy Waite, and unusually featuring the bands Solo Baritone player Keith Graham.

Harrogate Choral Society then performed a beautiful and moving rendition of ‘The Lord’s Prayer (from African Sanctus) by David Fanshawe and two movements from ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins, in my opinion one of the highlights of the evening. The choir and band then joined together in a pre-interval performance of ‘Zadok the Priest’ by Handel. This was in a lower key than the original, and made it difficult for the choir to achieve some of the vocal brilliance normally available in this work. The band unfortunately suffered from the effects of the acoustic and was unable to take full advantage of the light Baroque style of this piece.

Harrogate Band started the second half of the concert with a lively and rhythmic piece called ‘Arctic Funk' by the Norwegian composer Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen. The band then showed their versatility by giving a traditional and powerful rendition of ‘Nimrod’ by Elgar. This was a beautiful example of the texture and colours of tone that are available to a brass band. The very quiet introduction of the theme building gradually to a huge climax that leaves the hair on the back of the neck stood on end. The band followed this with a piece for all brass band aficionados, ‘La Corsair’ by Berlioz.

Harrogate Choral Society and Andrew Padmore returned to the English theme by singing four pieces by English composers. ‘My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land’ and ‘As Torrents in Summer’ by Elgar, ‘The Blue Bird’ by Stanford and ‘The Long Day Closes’ by Sullivan. These were all performed a cappella, the quality of singing, a beautiful example of how English music and unaccompanied voice should be performed. Andrew Padmore skilfully used the acoustic to his full advantage, the choir once again showing why they are one of the best choirs in Yorkshire.

The band returned playing ‘Skyhigh’ by Roy Waite, 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square’ by Sherwin and then the band flugel horn player Lynne Stockdale gave a superb rendition of the ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ made popular in the film Brassed Off. After this a Howard Snell arrangement of the tune ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to finish. The whole evening came to an end when the choir and band joined together once again and performed the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from Verdi’s opera Nabucco. As always, I am never disappointed when I attend a concert given by Harrogate Choral Society, but a concert with The Harrogate Band, was two for the price of one, an excellent and entertaining evening of music in a magnificent setting, thank you.

Nick Garside
Director of Music, Harrogate Ladies' College