Concert review by Robin Gregory: Hailsham Choral Society in Top Form
Hailsham Choral’s concert at All Saints Church in Eastbourne on 10th November was arguably the most demanding selection of choral masterpieces I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. There were relatively short items by Palestrina, Victoria, Guerrero, Viadana, Gabrielli, Mozart, Haydn, Reinberger, Franck and Fauré. In addition they performed five of Parry’s Songs of Farewell and gave the world premiere of The Whispering Mass by Marcus Haddow. As if that list of delights was not enough, their brilliant accompanist Colin Hughes played a Bach Siciliana and an Elegy in memory of G.H.Knight by Martin How.
That rather terrifying programme would be beyond the reach of many splendid choirs, but a number of easily-overlooked facts made this an evening of sheer magic. First Jozik Kotz, their Director and Conductor is himself a distinguished singer, ever sensitive to the nuance which lifts each phrase and permits words to be heard. In addition, Colin Hughes is far more than an accompanist: he is a musician in depth -- a fine organist (and violinist if needs be). Within the choir are singers of exceptional musical insight: Ian Fry (bass), for example, had compiled a 20-page printed programme which presented facts about each composer’s life in such a way that one could scarce wait to hear each item. And prominent among the tenors was the composer of The Whispering Mass, which achieved the seemingly impossible task of combining the Latin Mass and modern pop music. Soprano Rachel Chilton’s solo in Marcus’s Mass showed how deep is the choir’s quality.
It may not be widely known, but the All Saints organ which purred and thundered under Colin’s hands and feet is an outstanding example of the work of Arthur Harrison, better known for the organs in Westminster Abbey and the Albert Hall. On a weekend in which we remember the Armistice of 1918, could one imagine a better place locally to hear so relevant a works as Parry’s Songs of Farewell? Parry (unlike so much of Elgar) knew how to let words shine through his music, and the performance was perhaps joint high-spot with the Whispering Mass. Yet ultimately it was the evening as-a-whole which mesmerised the audience. Hailsham Choral’s next evening in Eastbourne will be on March 23rd 2019, when they present Haydn’s Creation. Not to be missed!