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Congleton Choral Society, Congleton, Cheshire, UK

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No: 515851

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Elijah
Congleton Town Hall, 21st March 2015

Music for pleasure: a view from an audience member

On March 21st I went to the Town Hall to hear Mendelssohn's Elijah performed by the Congleton Choral Society. Looking around me, the audience appeared transported, excited and thrilled to be listening to conductor Christopher Cromar realise Mendelssohn's work. A few sat with scores on their laps following every word; some closed their eyes to better concentrate on the sound; the majority jumped to their feet at the end to applaud the performance. I could see why: the Choral Society gave an excellent performance that night. The choir were focused and performed with unflagging vigour. Carefully guided by Cromar, they found subtle dynamic range within a score that the composer seemed to want to be constantly set at 'sing with the greatest intensity'. Their timing was clear and the balance between the different parts was well-managed, despite the differences in numbers between the men's and ladies' sections.

What was particularly impressive was the society's commitment to the work, the fact that they put their efforts not into being noticed individually but into making the best experience for the audience that they could. In fact a sense of collective effort spread through the whole event. Everyone looked smart; the programme note was entertaining and informative; the hall was the perfect setting and the front of house ran so smoothly it went unnoticed (until now; well done to all!)

The singers were accompanied by the Philharmonic Ensemble who, skilfully conducted by Cromar, managed to enrich rather than overwhelm the sound of the choir. I listen to live music very rarely and I always enjoy being able to see the physicality of such skilled musicians as they play. The choir were also joined by professional soloists from a variety of backgrounds (including English National Opera and Scottish Opera) who did a good job at animating the different roles in the score. I found the mezzo-soprano Laura Margaret Smith particularly enjoyable. She seemed to find a beautiful sense of rhythm and phrasing that gave her words a compelling sense of intention and dramatic intensity. I found her performance very moving.

This is not my kind of music…….the sound is too dramatic for my taste and to me Elijah falls awkwardly between the outright romance of opera and the technical skill of classical composition. At the interval I overheard one woman talking about how the work 'painted a picture for her' and a man saying how 'amazingly beautiful' he found it. Whilst I had a stimulating evening and left full of appreciation, their responses made me think that maybe I need to find more time in my life to listen to music for pleasure. So thank you Congleton Choral Society for putting on a fantastic evening that has pointed this out for me. See you at the next one!

A.N.

The Choral Society's next concert, entitled Of Love and Music, will take place at the Town Hall on Saturday 18th July. The programme features twentieth-century music. The choir will perform Carl Orff's exciting Carmina Burana, Cecilia McDowall's hauntingly beautiful On Angel's Wing, and Captain Noah's Floating Zoo, a lively, witty interpretation of the bible story from the pens of composer Joseph Horovitz and librettist Michael Flanders. The Choral Society will be joined in this concert by Congleton Children's Choir, accompanied by two pianists playing two grand pianos, several percussionists and three professional vocal soloists. Expect some musical fireworks! More details at congletonchoralsociety.org.uk

 


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