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Congleton Choral Society, Congleton, Cheshire, UK

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No: 515851

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Fascinating Rhythm
Congleton Town Hall, 19th July 2014

Review by Christina Burgess, accompanist for Holmes Chapel Chorus.

Congleton Choral Society invited two musical stars to take part in the summer concert at Congleton Town Hall on Saturday 19th July. They were singer Emily Dankworth and pianist Dominic John. The audience thoroughly enjoyed their contribution to a varied programme of light music and jazz. One member of the audience commented that it was 'a super change from the usual repertoire'.

Emily is the granddaughter of Cleo Lane and John Dankworth and she grew up with both classical and jazz music. Critics have written that she has flawless pitch and lyrical expression. Dominic began his studies at Chetham's and is now an international soloist and the recipient of several prizes. He made such an impression at last year's Opera Gala that he was invited to return to Congleton.

The concert began with A Little Jazz Mass. Composer Bob Chilcott was inspired by his experiences with the King's Singers and by a commission from a choir in New Orleans. The result was a setting of the Latin Mass in modern jazz idioms and it proved an exhilarating start to the evening.

Next we were treated to songs by George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. Kern's pieces were purely choral arrangements; but Emily Dankworth sang solos in Gershwin's Summertime, Embraceable You and They can't take that away from me.

Christopher Cromar has used his considerable talents as a choral conductor to develop the repertoire and quality of singing in the Choral Society. He is also an accomplished concert organist and pianist, and he joined Dominic John in Gershwin's Cuban Overture, a work full of Caribbean rhythms and traditional tunes. Dominic later took our breath away with Gershwin tunes arranged by the piano virtuoso Earl Wild. I can understand why Wild gave recitals for six US presidents!

Both choir and audience enjoyed John Rutter's setting of four Afro-American spirituals. The piano underpinned the singing while the solo mezzo soprano intertwined with the choral harmonies. It was refreshing to hear these new arrangements of the well-known tunes Steal away, I got a robe, Deep river and Every time I feel the spirit. A member of the audience commented that it was 'nice to see the choir so relaxed'.

All too soon the evening ended, with a suite of well-known songs from My Fair Lady which left the audience with a spring in their step. It was certainly a concert full of 'fascinating rhythm' but it also demonstrated another aspect of the 'special relationship' between America and Britain. For example, British composers Chilcott and Rutter have been inspired by the culture of the USA while Lerner and Lowe developed Shaw's story into an outstanding musical.

I cannot believe that some of those who heard this concert would not be inspired to join the choir. The audience feedback forms included comments such as 'brilliant' and 'excellent in all respects'. The society welcomes new members, particularly tenors and basses, to their Monday evening rehearsals. There is also a Children's Choir and a Choir for Hire. On October 4th there will be a rare public workshop led by Joseph Cullen, who is one of Europe's most respected choral conductors. It will feature Mozart's Coronation Mass.

The Choral Society's next concert takes place on Saturday 22nd November. Entitled Lest We Forget, it will commemorate the outbreak of the First World War. Music includes Guest's For the Fallen, Duruflé's Requiem and Haydn's Nelson Mass.


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