The Birmingham Post isn’t always able to post online everything that I’ve written for its print edition, so – after a suitable time lag (you should really go out and buy the paper!) – I’ll be posting my recent reviews here. As per the print edition, they’re all fairly concise – just 250 words. This is of a performance at Kidderminster Town Hall on Saturday 19 March.
Handel’s The King Shall Rejoice, Haydn’s Nelson Mass and Mozart’s anything-but-solemn Solemn Vespers – the Kidderminster Choral Society clearly likes to keep itself busy. This was a concert of pretty much wall-to-wall choral singing, and none the worse for it: three top-flight masterpieces delivered with energy and zing under the Society’s artistic director Geoffrey Weaver.
And that was despite the stage arrangements at Kidderminster’s Victorian Town Hall – which split the choir in two and stacked them steeply on either side of the organ. The KCS is clearly well-used to this: they produced a big, bright mass of sound, with a brilliant soprano section and a more than usually lively team of altos. In the Haydn, they sounded like they were enjoying every note. Weaver kept it bowling along and the choir responded with lively, natural phasing and crisp, clearly enunciated interjections in the Gloria.
Perhaps he might have paced the Benedictus to make more a climax out of the arrival of Haydn’s warlike trumpets – but there was no doubt that the spirit of the thing was there in spades. It helped that they had such a winningly youthful line-up of soloists: contralto Elisabeth Paul, tenor Christopher Fitzgerald-Lombard and bass Andrew Randall. But the real heroine of the evening was the soprano Gemma King, standing in at one day’s notice, and singing with a pure, vibrato-light tone and such smiling freshness that you’d never have known it.
A couple of caveats: there’d be room in the nicely-produced programme book for the text and translations – these should be provided as a matter of course. And as Richard Strauss once said: don’t look at the trombones, it only encourages them. Throughout the first half, one of the Elgar Sinfonia’s trombonists (unnamed in the programme) honked it out so noisily that any chance of distinguishing the chorus’s words was obliterated, at least from where I was sitting.