REVIEW OF CONCERT ON NOVEMBER 21ST 2015

Lancaster Singers / Amici Ensemble St Peter’s Cathedral Lancaster 21 November 2015 "LANCASTER SINGERS CONCERT - A CLASS ACT" 

A truly fine evening of music was given by the Lancaster Singers and the Amici Ensemble in St Peter’s Cathedral on November 21. A programme of music entirely written before 1840 brought a wealth of different styles, textures and choral effects. 

The programme began with Guerrero’s Duo Seraphim, in which the composer imagined two angels were calling to one another. The choir was split left and right at the sides of the church with a semi-chorus of singers placed in the middle. Strong declamatory singing began the piece, followed by interesting melismatic figures echoing from each side. At the climax of the piece all sections swelled to a thrilling sound in which the audience were treated to music in “über-stereo”. 

The choir relocated to the centre of the church for Bach’s motet Singet Dem Herrn and from the outset the choir were confident and assured in their delivery. The first section was bright and lively, with soaring soprano lines and demanding coloratura passages sung with seeming ease. The second, slower section contrasted well and was sung sensitively , though the choir’s tuning suffered in quieter moments. The third section saw continued rhythmically accurate and energised singing lead to a strong finish, echoing through the cathedral for several seconds. 

The Amici ensemble, largely composed of past and present Royal Northern College of Music students, had supported the choir extremely well in both pieces in the concert. They then gave a fine performance of JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2 in which Violin, Recorder, Oboe and Trumpet soloists were on risers above the orchestra. This was the perfect acoustic for this music and it was an excellent performance all-round, especially the intense second movement. Special mention should be given for Mark Harrison’s fine playing of a fiendish trumpet solo. 

The second half of the concert brought a pleasant surprise to much of the audience in Hummel’s Mass in B Flat. While not an especially well known piece, there were many excellent and varied musical moments reminiscent of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The choir and orchestra performed the piece very well, revelling in the changes between the slow and fast, loud and softer movements. The piece ended strongly with the sound of full choir, orchestra brass and timpani echoing marvellously through the Cathedral’s rafters. One felt if Hummel had integrated four soloists into the piece and added an extra movement that this could have become a piece in the standard choral repertory. 

Congratulations, therefore, to Duncan Lloyd for assembling this excellent programme and for arranging the Amici ensemble. Furthermore, his conducting has great energy and commitment and he is at all times engaged with his performers. Notably, Duncan Lloyd has developed the Lancaster Singers into a very fine choral ensemble. Throughout the concert the choir sang assuredly, were very well balanced and were a tight ensemble group. Watch out for future concerts from this groups as they will be well worth attending. 

David Cox 

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