Congleton Choral Society enjoy Haydn and Mozart at Congleton Town Hall
'We hope it leaves you feeling as uplifted after hearing it as we feel after singing it.' I read these words in the programme as I sat in the large audience at Congleton Town Hall last Saturday for the Autumn concert of Congleton Choral Society. The event did not disappoint. There was a great atmosphere and a member of the audience reported that their guests from Switzerland were blown away by the scale of the event and the professionalism of the choir.
Haydn was 70 when he composed the Harmoniemesse in 1802 but the sound is exhilarating and youthful. The mass was written to celebrate the birthday of the wife of Haydn's employer, Prince Esterhazy. Haydn had returned to Hungary from London where he had written works for larger orchestras than in his early career. As the concert notes explained, the mass is full of 'Haydn's inventiveness, wit, surprises and earthiness'. The choir captured the contrasting moods of the movements: the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. The sound was complemented by the instruments of the Philharmonic Ensemble led by Andrew Orton and by the voices of the four soloists. A member of the audience commented 'The Haydn was amazing; there were moments of sheer joy'.
After the interval we heard the more familiar Requiem by Mozart. This was written shortly before his death in poverty at the age of 35 and the final sections were completed by a friend. It was good to see younger members of the audience watching the performers intently from the balcony. At times they were mimicking the actions of the timpanist and conductor and several burst into spontaneous applause at the end of the spirited Dies irae.
Christopher Cromar, the choir's professional conductor, brought his wealth of experience as a vocal coach, pianist and organist to this performance. He had selected able performers for the solo singing parts. The choir had obviously worked hard during rehearsals with piano accompaniment and on the night they responded to Christopher's baton. Their entries were spot on and their enthusiasm was palpable. Despite being outnumbered by sopranos and altos, the tenors and basses sang with confidence and rhythm. The soprano section's top notes were effortless and beautiful. Perhaps the orchestra was a little forceful at times when accompanying the solo singers but the sound supported the choir well. With such a variety of strings, woodwind and brass, it would have been good to hear them in a purely instrumental work between the two choral pieces. As he left, a member of the Philharmonic Ensemble commented: 'It was a joy to play for such a good choir'. And members of the audience added: 'Wonderful concert - one of the best! We were enthralled with the whole thing. It was a spine-tingling evening.'