Director JULIAN COLLINGS ♦ Accompanist DAVID THORNE ♦ Registered Charity No: 800934
Still basking in the success of their 2016 West Country concert in Mere, the SLS this year ventured in the opposite direction to present a similar event in the Church of St. James the Great in the pleasant surroundings of the Kentish village of East Malling. The concert, directed by Julian Collings, with organ and piano accompaniment provided by David Thorne, was given in support of the church’s current appeal for funding to build the Apple Tree Room, a new multi-purpose space for meetings and other church activities. Welcomed by an old friend, Assistant Priest Canon Derek Carpenter (formerly of St. George’s, Beckenham) and his colleagues, the Singers lunched at the King and Queen Restaurant close by, before repairing to the church for their pre-concert rehearsal.
Their attractive programme, ‘Music for a Summer Evening’, had been designed to appeal to all tastes and to display the variety in the choir’s current repertoire. The first half, of mostly well-known sacred items, began with Mendelssohn’s ever-popular anthem Hear my Prayer, with its famous solo aria ‘O for the wings of a dove’ delightfully sung by Jackie Riley.
Via familiar miniatures by Fauré, Brahms, Mozart and John Rutter, a strong conclusion was reached with ‘Blessed be the God and Father’, one of the best-known works of the eminent 19th-century anthem composer and cathedral organist Samuel Sebastian Wesley, a long-standing SLS favourite. In the second half the Singers treated their audience to a selection of lighter pieces, beginning with an enchanting sequence of Shakespeare settings by the revered jazz pianist and composer George Shearing. These were followed by arrangements of three popular songs, ‘Blue Moon’, ‘All I have to do is dream’ and ‘Whispering Grass’, plus an entertaining medley of tunes from The Wizard of Oz, compiled by the American arranger and choral conductor Greg Gilpin – which will be reprised in the Singers’ summer concert in Beckenham in July.
Additionally, local harpist Keziah Thomas, who has appeared with the Singers on several previous occasions and is well known to Beckenham audiences, contributed a generous assortment of her ‘party pieces’, to add a further touch of glamour (and not only musical) to this most enjoyable – and enjoyed – occasion.
Review by JOHN NIGHTINGALE
At their 2017 summer concert, on Saturday 15 July at Beckenham Methodist Church, the SLS, directed by Julian Collings, treated their audience to some “jolly good fun” (The Wizard of Oz: Choral Revue, arr. Greg Gilpin, bar 326) in the company of Witches and Wizards. Their unlikely programme juxtaposed a concert performance of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas with a Choral Revue of themes from the celebrated 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, items which in the event made an unexpectedly successful pairing. They also embraced the theme of youth, with Dido and Aeneas long thought to have been premièred at Josias Priest’s girls’ school in Chelsea, and The Wizard of Oz, perhaps most remembered for its teenage star Judy Garland, continuing to be enjoyed by children of all ages.
In the Purcell the leading roles of Dido, Aeneas and Belinda were confidently taken by Maggie Isom, James Heathcote and Jackie Riley respectively, with other, smaller parts also sung by members of the choir. In The Wizard of Oz the same three singers, in the roles of Dorothy, Glenda and the Scarecrow, were joined by Barry Wright and David Jackson as the Tin Man and the Lion.
The accompaniment in the Purcell was provided by the Hammig String Quartet, long-standing friends of the SLS, and, on the harpsichord, the choir’s accompanist David Thorne. David also accompanied The Wizard of Oz on the piano, and the quartet returned to the stage to make their own contribution to the evening in the form of Ross Cowen’s arrangement of Saint-Saëns’s ghostly Danse macabre. It was good to see the Hammigs able to play as a quartet again for this concert, welcoming guest violinist Rebecca Collen replacing the late Paul, alongside regular members David Burton, Jane Tyler and Sean Turpin. In fine SLS tradition, the concert was followed by an excellent summer buffet in the Bevington Hall, enjoyed by audience and performers alike.
And now, after the summer break, we will all look forward to the next SLS concerts in November and December.
Report by John Nightingale