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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, we all look forward to the next SLS concerts in November and December.
Report by John Nightingale