Detail from 'Brahms Begins the Day' by Oswald Barrett ('Batt')
reproduced by kind permission of Michael Abbott
On 9th April at the Town Hall, Congleton Choral Society performed an ambitious programme of music, conducted by musical director Nick Concannon Hodges.
The choir opened the concert with two motets by Anton Bruckner, ‘Locus Iste’ and ‘Ave Maria’. These exacting unaccompanied pieces demand fine tuning and sensitive singing, which the choir achieved well, especially in the ‘Ave Maria’. Solo performances followed from two guest professionals, soprano Nicola Howard and bass Mark Rowlinson. They delighted the audience with songs by Haydn and Schubert, beautifully accompanied on the piano by Daniel Browell.
After the interval came Brahms’ ‘German Requiem’, performed in Brahms’ own piano arrangement for four hands. Daniel Browell was joined at the piano by Patricia Garcia Gill. These talented young musicians performed superbly, enhancing a moving and expressive performance by the choir and soloists. Singing in English, with clear diction, the choir conveyed every aspect of the emotional experience of the Requiem. Sorrow, hope, fear, comfort and consolation were expressed in a sensitive and intimate way, with great musicality. The contrasts between the lyrical and dramatic passages were brought out strongly through changes in tempo and dynamics. David Johnson, musical director of the Society from 1975 to 2009, said ‘I really enjoyed the concert. I thought the choir brought a very, very difficult piece (the Brahms) off with style and panache.’
Praise is due to Nick Concannon Hodges, both for his intuitive interpretation of Brahms’ music, and for his meticulous training of the choir. The Society is sorry to have to say goodbye to Nick, who is leaving because of professional and family commitments. He takes with him the members’ sincere good wishes for the future and their heartfelt thanks for his inspiring work with the choir and for the enjoyment he has given them.