As a refreshing break from all the various English celebrations of the day, Grantham Choral Society performed an all-German programme of music by Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms on Saturday to a large and appreciative audience in the newly refurbished nave of St Wulfam’s Church.
Still recognising the significance of the day, the concert was opened with the singing of the National Anthem and wearing of red roses.
Mendelssohn’s “Hear My Prayer” anthem began the programme which included the famous “O for a wings of a dove” section. This was beautifully sung by the Soprano Moira Johnston, whose clear, sweet voice with no trace of vibrato was perfect for this, normally a boy treble piece. The choir seemed well balanced and responsive in the unaccompanied sections of this work.
With no interval, the evening continued with Brahms’ German Requiem and its seven sections. The dark opening section showed the choir able to give a good performance but they became lost when the orchestra, the English Pro Musica, increased in volume. This work is punishingly high for the upper voices and this began to tell a little on the sopranos, but the altos made a very smooth and mellow sound. Sadly there were not enough men to make their solo passages stand out with any distinction.
The entry of the Baritone, Jake Muffet, in the third section immediately took your attention as his commanding presence and assertive tone made the words of this section portentous, significant and moving. Inspired, this was clearly echoed by the choir in their reply. The more familiar “How lovely are thy dwellings” fourth section was indeed lovely and led on to Moira Johnston, clear and but slightly underpowered fifth section with a very controlled choir sound.
The sixth section was very exciting but would have benefited from more forces. The seventh and final section always seems an anti-climax after the sixth and rather wanders to a conclusion. This is the fault of Brahms not the choir. Nigel Stark, the Musical Director of the Society and tonight’s conductor is to be congratulated on pulling together a polished performance of this well-known work.