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Concert Reviews


70th Anniversary Concert - review by Alix Cathcart, May 2015

A very enjoyable evening of sacred choral music was hosted by The West Somerset Singers on Saturday 16 May at Taunton Baptist Church, to celebrate their 70th anniversary year. Mayor of Taunton Deane, Dave Durdan and his wife Renee were in the audience.

The highlight of the occasion was the first performance of a setting of Psalm 150, written especially for the choir for this occasion by their Musical Director, David Knight. The piece, both lyrical and contemporary, has the qualities of a celebratory fanfare. The choir must feel honoured to have such a lovely piece composed for them. The first half of the programme also contained pieces by Holst and Handel.

The substantive performance of the evening was Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle. The work contains substantial soloist parts, performed by Soprano Lisa Tustian, Contralto Rebecca Smith, Tenor Chris Davies and Baritone Stephen Page, all a pleasure to listen to. The work has an operatic character, contains beautiful harmonies and calls for shades of colour in the singing, particularly sombre tones towards the end. For the choir, this was an ambitious piece, which they relished, strongly supported by Organist John Bodiley and Pianist Rachel Robinson.

At the reception afterwards, John Evemy paid tribute to past Directors, accompanists, soloists and past members of the choir, some of whom were present. The choir would like to welcome new voices, as it embarks on the next decade. More information can be found at: www.westsomersetsingers.org.uk.

Reflections for Good Friday: review by M Summers, March 2013

On Good Friday David Knight conducted his first concert as Musical Director of the West Somerset Singers, in performances of Stainer's Crucifixion and Vivaldi's Gloria at Taunton Baptist Church. Chris Manners accompanied very sensitively on the organ and disguised some problems in the organ's tuning and action extremely well.

Tenor soloist, Dean Ward, took some liberties with Stainer's score but the effect was musical and his diction good. David Fouracre, Bass soloist, provided excellent tone and diction throughout starting with the introduction to the choir's first chorus, “The Agony”. Here the choir showed excellent response to the conductor with precise entries, clean ends to phrases and good dynamics. These qualities were a hallmark of the entire performance. However, although the changes in tempi in “Fling wide the gates” were well observed, the choir seemed a bit overawed by the organ. The unaccompanied chorus “God so loved the world” was a model of control. Choir members John Gillard and Bob Hart provided well-toned clear reliable lines for the short bass solos required.

Vivaldi's Gloria received a first class lively performance, with the choir again attentive from the very first entry. Soloists Gillian Wells, Soprano and Olivia Gomes, Alto both in their final year at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, sang beautifully, expressively and accurately. The choir remained alert even through the tricky fugal sections, although the men understandably began to tire in the final section. Nevertheless, for some fine exhilarating music this was a most commendable performance, clearly enjoyed by the audience and a promise of great things ahead from the choir under their new Musical Director.

A Promise of Spring: review by A Edwards, March 2012

Taunton Baptist Church welcomed The West Somerset Singers on Saturday 31st March for a programme selected to celebrate British music in this Jubilee year. Under the direction of Nick Thomas, the choir opened the concert with lively extracts from Edward German’s comic opera Merrie England. The audience were introduced to the first of the evening’s talented young soloists, Bridgwater College student Danielle Stacey-Evans, who gave two enchanting soprano solos; She Had A Letter and O Peaceful England. Huw Davies, a lower sixth form student at Richard Huish College then delivered a first class performance of Noel Coward’s Mrs Worthington.

As the programme continued with a selection of British folk songs the balance wasn’t always perfect, due in part to the small number of tenors and basses, but from the tranquil Elizabethan serenade Where the Gentle Avon Flows to the rousing Loch Lomond the choir delivered a solid performance paying attention to diction and dynamics.
The second half opened with a soaring soprano solo from Danielle, Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, accompanied by the choir. Fifteen-year-old Kingsmead School student Joe Robinson then engaged the audience with a confident and thoroughly entertaining rendition of Top Hat, White Tie and Tails by Irvine Berlin.
For the finale, the audience were treated to a lesser known cantata Captain Noah and His Floating Ark by composer Joseph Horovitz to a witty libretto by Michael Flanders. Here the choir were able to demonstrate flexibility in a variety of musical styles from jazz to samba! Huw and Joe were outstanding once more in their roles as Narrator & The Lord and Captain Noah. The choir were skilfully accompanied throughout by pianist Rachel Robinson. Plenty of applause and smiles all round as the evening drew to a close.

A Christmas Cornucopia: review by S Derham, December 2011

The West Somerset Singers, under the direction of Nick Thomas, once again gave a wonderful concert at Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton on Saturday 3rd December. The choir began with Bach’s Wake ye Maids which they sang in German - good four part singing and a strong performance. Accomplished organist Alex Davies then played the Prelude and Fugue in B flat by Bach. The choir’s rendition of Missa Brevis Santi Joannis de Deo (Little organ mass) by Haydn was a moving piece with good tenors. Guest Soprano Katharine Walker sang the solo Benidictus with great feeling. Amie Ward, a pupil from Bishop Fox’s School, sang a most beautiful solo The Virgin’s Slumber Song by Max Reger with clear diction and a worthy performance. Bringing the first half to a close we heard Brahms’ How Lovely are Thy Dwellings and Bach’s Zion Hears the Watchman Calling.

The second half began with Navidad Nuestra, a folk drama of the Nativity based on the rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America. Alex played the harpsicord with Nick on the accordion in this fun, light-hearted piece. Pat Phillips, a member of the choir with a lovely soprano voice, sang the solo. John Rutter’s The Donkey Carol and David Willcocks’ arrangement of What Child Is This followed, the latter sung to the tune of Greensleeves. Alex’s second solo piece on the organ Lefébure-Wély’s Andante was superb and gave you tingles! Bach`s “Gloria” Sing All Our Voices, was one my personal favourites from the evening - all parts sang with strength and emotion. The audience joined in with some popular carols and a thoroughly enjoyable evening sadly came to an end. For those of you not there I do encourage you to support this fantastic local choir.


Springtime Concert: review by A R Edwards, April 2011

The recently refurbished Taunton Baptist Church provided a comfortable and welcoming setting for the West Somerset Singers’ Springtime Concert on Saturday 16th April. Conducted by their Musical Director Nick Thomas, the choir began the evening’s programme with a solid performance of Schubert’s Mass in G. Through clear diction and range of dynamics the choir succeeded in capturing the contrasting mood of the piece from the lively, vigorous Gloria to the peaceful Agnus Dei. Guest Soprano Hilary Gooch and Tenor Chris Ball gave a well-balanced duet in the Benedictus supported by the choir’s basses.
Accomplished organist Alex Davies treated the audience to two solos; Karg-Elert’s Nun Danket and the uplifting Andante Choeur de voix humaines from French classical composer Lefébure-Wély. Hilary Gooch then demonstrated her remarkable vocal range in a solo performance of the technically challenging Laudamus Te by Mozart.
In the second half, the choir were joined by highly talented young musicians from Wellington School and King’s College Taunton. Cellist Tamar Dewbery, Flautist Jenny Kilbey and Oboist Bethany Kilbey along with King’s Music Director Karen Paul on timpani and pianist Rachel Robinson on keyboard provided a faultless orchestral accompaniment to Rutter’s Requiem. There were some hesitant entries from the choir and at times uncertainty between the parts but this did not spoil the overall delivery of the seven movements of this atmospheric work. The intensity of the dark, opening section of Out of the Deep contrasted superbly with the uplifting Sanctus. Hilary delighted the audience once again with her beautiful soaring soprano solos in Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna.
Finally, a serene performance of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine from the choir brought a thoroughly enjoyable evening to a close.

A Feast of Seasonal Music: review by M Bray, December 2010

The West Somerset Singers promised us a Feast of Seasonal Music at their recent concert and they certainly didn’t disappoint. There was a solid opening with two chorales from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio sung with great attack following an introductory recitative given by tenor Chris Davies.
There followed a confident and dramatic performance of Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio with clear diction throughout and a variety of dynamics, enthusiastically conducted by their musical director Nick Thomas and accompanied with great sensitivity on the organ by Alex Davies and Rachel Robinson on keyboard. The opening chorus Glory be unto God was followed by a solo from the soprano Hilary Gooch which demonstrated her vocal range and clarity of tone. This led into a chorus In my heart I believe which was at times ethereal with the soloist soaring above the chorus. There followed a lyrical and well balanced duet by Hilary and Chris Davies before the choir burst into Wherefore do the Heathen Clamor?
The second half began with a lively rendition of Rutter’s arrangement of I saw three ships, three movements from Rutter’s Suite Antique for flute and piano given by Nick Thomas on the flute and the traditional carol Good King Wenceslas.
Jonathan Lee came into his own when he joined the choir in the Huron Carol followed by a beautiful performance of O Holy Night. The soloists and choir joined together for In the Bleak Mid Winter which has been voted the nation’s favourite carol.
The choir sang two more carols including The Taunton Carol until the evening came to a very peaceful close with the audience joining in Silent Night sensitively accompanied on the guitar.

Seasonal celebrations: review by Nick Taylor, December 2009

At the Seasonal Celebration of Great Composers at St George’s, Wilton, Nick Thomas directed the West Somerset Singers in a rich and varied programme to commemorate Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Purcell.
They began the ambitious Charpentier Messe de Minuit with joyful confidence.
There was good balance between the parts, an accomplished duet and trio from Pat Phillips, Gill Thompson, and Anne-Marie Twort, but some uncertainty later in the piece in some vocal parts.
Nick played exquisitely on the descant recorder, accompanied by his wife Elaine, for two pieces by Purcell including variations on ‘Air’ and the rousing ‘Lilliburlero’, and later they treated us to the beautiful soaring flute melodies of Blake’s ‘The Snowman Suite’.
Haydn’s optimistic ‘Te Deum’ was tackled with gusto, with an energetic fugue ‘In Te Dominum speravi’, and a triumphant ending. Chris Ball’s dulcet tenor tones added to the beauty of Mendelssohn’s ‘Ave Maria’, the choir producing exciting climaxes. Accompanied by the choir, Chris Doyle gave a masterly rendition of the baritone solo in Cornelius’ ‘The Three Kings’.
Handel was celebrated with ‘For unto us a child is born’: it perhaps lacked some joy and confidence to match its sentiments, and a few members could usefully watch the conductor more. But here, as in other pieces, Alex Davies was a joy to hear on the organ – producing contrasts we didn’t know that particular instrument was capable of!
Two gentle lullabies by Arnold Cooke and Jan Sanborn, the latter accompanied by the choir’s regular pianist Rachel Robinson, brought us well and truly into the Christmas season, as we all joined in with ‘God rest you’ and ‘O come, all ye faithful’, followed by wine and refreshments. This was an evening’s entertainment not to be missed, and their next concert is at the same venue on 8th. May 2010.

West Somerset Singers Spring Concert: review by Gill Brown, May 2009

On Saturday, the West Somerset Singers presented their Spring concert in the intimate setting of St George’s Church, Wilton.
A contrasting programme had been chosen by conductor Nick Thomas, starting with the Mozart Requiem, followed by John Rutter’s Magnificat. For the Requiem, the choir was joined by four perfectly matched soloists; Janet Distin (Soprano), Peter Oakley (Countertenor), Simon Hurrell (Tenor) and Michael Collins (Bass). Their performances all greatly enhanced the work with their richness of tone and attention to dynamics but special mention must be made of Peter Oakley who, at the age of eighteen, sang with great composure and assurance.
The Mozart opened with confidence supported by Alex Davies’ skilful organ accompaniment. In the Kyrie the soprano line was clear and the voices were well balanced. Nick Thomas kept it moving forward and the intricacy of the underlying parts was well controlled. The choir produced a range of moods in the Lacrimosa which began with a beautiful sighing entry, leading to the exciting climax. There was good attack and precision in the Domine Jesu and effective contrast of dynamics, while in the Benedictus the soloists sang effortlessly, their voices rising and falling with great musicality.
In the second half, the audience fell under the spell of John Rutter’s uplifting Magnificat. From the opening bars to the last strains, the listeners were kept on the edge of their seats as the choir and Janet Distin gave a wonderful performance. Rutter’s works never fail to entertain and the Magnificat is no exception. The syncopations and strong, energetic melodies produced a sense of exhilaration and the choir’s joyous singing enhanced this mood.
Generally the voices were well balanced and there were opportunities in the opening section to hear the rich, sustained singing of the altos, while the sopranos soared above. Within the traditional words of the Magnificat, Rutter has interwoven three other elements, the most memorable a 15th century English poem, ‘Of a Rose’. Here there was a melodic male voice line and clarity of diction from all parts. The mounting tension in the Quia fecit mihi magna, with discords held well until the climax, contrasted beautifully with the gentle prayer ‘Sancta Maria’. After a shaky start, the Fecit potentiam gained confidence and the choir coped well with the very difficult rhythms. The lilting melody of Esurientes was sung with feeling and in the solo sections of the Et misericordia and the Gloria, Janet Distin sang with ease, filling the church with glorious, ringing tones.
Throughout, Alex Davies gave a spirited accompaniment on the piano and his accurate, rhythmic interpretation, along with Nick Thomas’s clear control of tempi and dynamics, supported and guided the choir through this ambitious work.

 

 

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