Hailsham Choral

Singing with a great choir !

Past concerts

Below is a selection of highlights from our recent concerts.

We strongly recommend that you take a look at the accompanying programmes which often run to 12 or 16 pages for the bigger concerts. So much hard work goes into their production that they need to be available to all.

For a full list of concerts since 2003 see here.

11th November 2023
Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Concert Review by Carol Mounter: Hailsham Choral sings Rossini - another triumph for Eastbourne audiences

At the end of Armistice Day, a day of reflection, Hailsham Choral Society offered a programme which began with the Anthem "For The Fallen", composed by Douglas Guest (1916 - 1996). This is a setting of the famous poem by Laurence Binyon, a gentle and spiritual piece which was simply and beautifully presented in the stunning setting of St Saviour’s Church, under the experienced leadership of their Musical Director and Conductor, Jozik Kotz. He deserves much praise for the way he brings out the blending of the voices and manages to instil energy and a feeling of teamwork that lasted throughout the evening. I believe that the mark of a good conductor is how much the choir watches them and the eyes of most of the singers remained on Jozik.

The second piece, and my personal favourite of the evening, was a work written by local composer, Tony Biggin. To my ear, evoking echoes of Butterworth’s opus, A Shropshire Lad, this beautiful composition summed up the loss of men in battle. The Day That Sussex Died, taken from a larger commissioned work, String! feature the words of Brighton based lyricist and writer, Stephen Plaice and relate the Battle of Boar’s Head at Richebourg - l’Avoué in France on 30th June, 1916. In less than five hours, the three Southdown battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 349 men and 1000 men were wounded or taken prisoner. Bass James Oldfield was the soloist for this piece and sang with sincerity and a great understanding of the lyrics. I want to hear this work again - and again!

Then to the major work of the evening, Gioachino Rossini’s last opus, the Petite Messe Solennelle, which is curiously misnamed, being neither small nor especially solemn. Rossini, (1792 -1868) enjoyed enormous prestige as the leading composer of Italian opera, in particular Opera Buffa (comic opera) plus other notable works, and had a reputation for enjoying fine foods and also for indolence, despite the huge amount of works produced. He then suddenly withdrew from composing at the age of 37 and did not reappear for twenty years, although he wrote several little piano pieces and songs during this time, which he referred to as his Péchés de Vieillesse (Sins of my Old Age); the final work being the Petite Messe Solennelle.

The opening ostinato, played by pianist Colin Hughes (a musician friend who attended this concert described his playing as skimming stones) - drawing us in to the initial Kyrie Eleison, the choir observing the balance of loud and soft . An excellent beginning. The Gloria introduced us to the soloists: Noa Lachman, soprano; Rebecca Hughes, alto; Andrew Wicks, tenor; and James Oldfield, already heard in the previous piece. This was followed by a trio for alto, tenor and bass, then the tenor solo, Domine Deus, a movement full of syncopation, dotted rhythms and leaps, all accomplished by Andrew Wicks on top form with a silky smooth technique and dynamic leaps. This movement had me smiling as it contained a definite element of opera buffa. Noa Lachman and Rebecca Hughes blended well in the duet Qui Tollis. And then the bass adagio solo, Quoniam tu solus - I really liked the velvety tone of James Oldfield’s voice. Cum Sancto brought together again the soloists and choir in a rousing finale to the first part. How many ‘Amens’ can you score in one movement...well, dozens and dozens, if you are Rossini!

The second part started with the Credo, followed by Crucifixus, with the soprano Noa Lachman showing her command of breath control and lyric phrasing. Et Resurrexit, announced by the sopranos, joined by other voices leading into a fugue which expands the text and resolves to an operatic plethora of ‘Amens’, sung by all the soloists.

We were then treated to a Preludio Religioso, beginning with a short piano introduction, followed by a long, solemn, modulating rhythmic movement, expertly played on the harmonium by Andrew Wilson. Salutaris Hostia, added by Rossini when he finally orchestrated his work, was sung with dulcet tones and lyricism by Noa Lachman, and then to the finale, the Agnus Dei, which the choir accomplished with enthusiasm and energy, plus the soaring voice of Rebecca Hughes, beautifully resonant above the choir, culminating into an impassioned Dona Nobis Pacem, so appropriate in today’s turbulent world. This was wonderfully performed and the highlight of this work.

Hailsham Choral Society is blossoming under the steady hand of Jozik Kotz and is a choir to take notice of. I look forward to many more evenings of delight.

Another triumph for Eastbourne audiences!

Carol Mounter, November 2023; Photos by John Feakins

1st April 2023
Handel: Samson

Concert Review by Robert Milnes: Hailsham Choral Society’s thrilling Samson

Three cheers for Hailsham Choral Society for presenting a Handel masterpiece in Eastbourne other than Messiah. Their performance of Samson on April 1st under their conductor Jozik Kotz was a triumph which thrilled the large and appreciative audience at All Saints Church.

Handel wrote Samson in 1741 immediately after finishing Messiah. Its first performance at Covent Garden received a rapturous reception and it became the most popular of Handel’s Oratorios during his lifetime. After hearing this performance it is easy to understand why, because Samson contains some of his most dramatic and expressive music.

The choir gave their all to the wonderful variety of choruses, from the wild celebration of the Philistines to the intense grief of the Israelites, with an impressive range of dynamics, clarity of diction and excellent tone.

In the title role the young tenor Ben Hancox-Lachman was simply superb, singing with a musicality and confidence far beyond his twenty one years and capturing all the dramatic aspects of the role.

Soprano Helen Bailey brought the house down with a breathtaking rendition of the showpiece aria “Let the bright seraphim”, ably assisted by the brilliant trumpet playing of Andrew Baxter.

Alto Rebecca Hughes showed again why she is in such demand as a soloist with her beautiful performance as Samson’s friend Micah.

Baritone Jim Clements sang with great style and feeling as Samson’s father Manoah and Bass Andrew Tipple was a commanding presence as the Philistine giant Harapha.

Smaller roles were well taken by members of the choir, two of whom also stepped out to play flute and recorder in the Dead March in Act three.

Handel left a rich legacy of great music for choral and solo singers, most of it now rarely heard, so it would be wonderful if the great success of Hailsham Choral Society’s Samson could lead to more of his masterpieces being performed locally. The enthusiastic response of Saturday’s audience gives me hope that Eastbourne is ready to explore Handel.

(Review by Robert Milnes: April 2023; Photos by John Feakins)

12th November 2022
Haydn: Nelson Mass. Purcell: Funeral Music for Queen Mary; Te Deum & Jubilate

Concert Review by Robert Milnes: Musical Triumph at All Saints

How appropriate that Hailsham Choral Society, under their inspiring conductor Jozik Kotz, should choose to perform Haydn’s great “Mass in the time of fear” (also known as the “Nelson” Mass) at this particular moment in time. The mass is in the dark key of D minor and conveys a growing sense of tension and disturbance, reflecting the widespread feeling of fear throughout Europe caused by the seemingly unstoppable advance of Napoleon, a feeling all too familiar during these times of political and economic turmoil.

Another topical choice in the programme was Purcell’s music for the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695, followed by Handel’s coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, thus mirroring a past and new monarch. The concert also included Purcell’s celebratory Te Deum and Jubilate and an organ solo by Bach, played by Colin Hughes.

An unusual feature of the concert was the instrumental ensemble of strings, trumpets, timpani and organ, which gave a wonderful sheen to the tone of the choir. Jozik Kotz obtained beautiful sounds from his singers in quiet, loud and very loud music.

The soloists Helen Bailey, Clarissa Meek, Ben Hancox-Lachman and Tim Dawkins gave splendid accounts of their parts and a member of the choir, Mr Ian Fry, provided his usual exemplary programme notes.

Altogether a wonderful evening, supported by an enthusiastic audience and the generous sponsorship of Crane’s Estate Agents.

We look forward to Hailsham Choral’s next concert in Eastbourne, Handel’s dramatic oratorio Samson, on April 1st next year. With the rising young tenor Ben Hancox-Lachman in the title role and the superb soprano Helen Bailey singing “Let the bright seraphim” that is definitely a date for your diaries.

(Review by Robert Milnes : November 2022; Photos by John Feakins)

Summer 2022 - A Jubilee Tribute

Our summer concert in 2022 featured an interesting programme of music sung at the Queen’s Coronation, with a large overhead screen showing colour film of the events of June 1953 while the choir sang, and our MD explaining to the audience how each piece of music fitted into the Coronation Service.

The second half of the concert included lighter music, with something from every decade of the Queen's seventy year reign.

Don’t miss the superb programme notes which accompanied the concert.

26th March 2022 - HCS 60th anniversary concert
Handel: Messiah

Concert Review by Andrew Lumb: Superb “Messiah” from Hailsham Choral Society

Lucky were those who were part of the capacity audience for Hailsham Choral Society’s 60th anniversary performance of Handel’s Messiah on Saturday March 26th at All Saints Church. This was their return to large scale concert giving after two years of lockdowns, and it proved to be an emotionally affecting as well as musically uplifting experience for the choir and the large audience. The evening was further enhanced by a stirring rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem which brought the audience to their feet with cheering and enthusiastic applause, and a collection for the DEC Ukraine appeal which raised over £1100.

With the Mayors

I wonder whether many in the audience understand the impact that the covid pandemic has had on music making generally, and this choral society in particular. A two year interruption must have had a damaging effect, with some members losing interest in “zoom rehearsals” and voices losing their stamina. All credit then must be given to the society’s conductor Jozik Kotz, who has clearly worked hard to bring the choir back to their former high standard.

Rebecca Hughes But on the day of the concert itself covid struck again. Jozik had to find a replacement soprano (the excellent Lisa Swayne) as well as two members of the orchestra. Despite all this the conductor, choir, orchestra and soloists should be proud of the spirited and involving performance which they gave. The baritone Greg Skidmore was new to the audience but Rebecca Hughes and Andrew Mackenzie Wicks are both well known local singers.

After two years of no live choral music it was magical to hear the first words of Messiah float over us - “Comfort ye my people”. In fact the whole concert gave comfort and joy, helped by Ian Fry’s illustrated and very informative programme to guide us through this masterpiece.

I look forward to hearing again the wonderful sound Hailsham Choral Society makes when they return to All Saints Church on the 12th of November to perform Haydn’s wonderful Nelson Mass.

(Review by Andrew Lumb : March 2022; Photos by Neil Hartop)

March 2020 : Cancelled
Handel: Samson

Sadly, our performance of Samson in March 2020 never took place. We had to cancel it at short notice because of Coronavirus restrictions. You may still find the programme notes interesting.

9th November 2019
Vivaldi: Gloria, Haydn: Te Deum and Fauré: Requiem

Concert Review by Robin Gregory: Eastbourne thrilled by Hailsham Choral’s Remembrance Concert

Despite pouring rain, All Saints Church was well-filled on November 9th. We were all confident that Hailsham Choral Society would not merely be well turned-out in red and black, but would sing like angels under their Director and Conductor Jozik Kotz. Their performance certainly did not disappoint, despite the news that Jozik is standing down after thirteen years.

Their usual well-printed and well-written programme notes announced that Vivaldi’s Gloria in D was to be the first work. On this occasion all the accompaniments were to be provided by pianist Kevin Atkin : no orchestra and no organ! To my surprise I found the clarity this provided actually increased my pleasure in the Gloria because the Latin text became unusually audible, and the soprano soloists Rachel Chilton and Fiona Mansfield could really shine in the Laudamus Te, the Domine and the Qui Sedes.

With the Mayors of Eastbourne and Hailsham

Haydn’s Te Deum for Empress Marie Therese followed. Despite its dedication it is particularly associated with a visit to Eisenstadt in 1800 by Admiral Nelson, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of the Nile. Once again the admirable choral forces were accompanied by pianist Kevin Atkin. It was a thrilling account of a work by one of music’s greatest composers, and it sent us enthusiastically to the drinks table for the interval.

After the break we stood in silence for Douglas Guest’s setting of Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem “For the Fallen”, and then we arrived at Fauré’s Requiem, which dates from the end of the nineteenth century. Many versions of this now much-loved work exist. My own favourite recording is a Decca LP with Ansermet conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and two outstanding soloists: baritone Gerard Souzay and soprano Suzanne Danco. It was interesting to hear the work with piano accompaniment, though in all conscience I must say I missed the magical sound of a good orchestra. Jozik Kotz himself sang the baritone parts, and Rachel Chilton the soprano. Both were so melifluous I was in seventh heaven when they were singing. Rachel’s Pie Jesu seemed to float heavenwards, and Jozik’s Libera Me perfectly prepared us for the closing In Paradisum: “eternal rest” indeed, and totally matching Fauré’s setting. The chorus was impeccable.

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2019)

Good Friday 19th April 2019
Maunder: Olivet to Calvary

23rd March 2019
Haydn: The Creation

Concert Review by Robin Gregory: All Saints Church set alight by Haydn’s Creation

Josef Haydn was the most prolific of composers. Symphonies and quartets simply poured from his quill, and of his giant masterworks “The Creation” is arguably the greatest of all his compositions, the equal (at least) of Mozart’s Requiem or Elgar’s Gerontius. It exists with both English and German texts, and its many recordings have found the most eminent critics arguing about which performance is to be recommended above all others. Great demands are made on the soloists, and the very finest are needed to bring out the majesty of the vocal writing. Fritz Wunderlich, unquestionably in the very top rank of tenors, was in the middle of one distinguished recording when he died while taking a break at his hunting-lodge, and this event came to my mind when I was told that at the very last moment Hailsham Choral Society had to find a replacement for their soprano, who was unwell. Helen Bailey, who “stood in”, proved the perfect replacement, well able to produce both the power and the beauty of her demanding role.

How fortunate is Eastbourne in that Jozik Kotz, Hailsham’s conductor and musical director, brought “The Creation” to All Saints Church on March 23rd. Everything proclaimed this a most satisfying performance of the work, with not a weak link, and with the choir, soloists and orchestra navigating every note with appropriate light and shade.

The audience certainly noticed that the choir was beautifully dressed for the occasion: the ladies in matching red jackets, the men in evening gear. And the programmes contained a mass of information about the work’s history, as well as a thorough biography of each soloist (except the soprano, of course). The orchestra’s leader, Lisa Wigmore, was identified, and all the musicians were named. Most importantly, so were all thirty-four sections of the music.

Within this huge work a few solos stand out : great singers occasionally sing them on solo recordings, for example. So how did our performers in All Saints compare? Helen Bailey soared effortlessly in “With Verdure Clad”, with fine orchestral backing, especially from the clarinet. “In Native Worth” showed Paul Austin Kelly producing “the goods”. Many delicate solos stood out in the orchestral playing, notably from flutes and timpani. The string sound and the brass were exemplary. And throughout, Eastbourne College’s Director of Music Daniel Jordan easily met the demands of a role which is sometimes in bass territory, sometimes baritone.

But the most important comments came from the audience, as they clapped until their hands ached, and sometimes beyond. This was music-making of the highest order, and if Haydn was hovering above he would have been well satisfied. A huge work, a fine performance throughout, a welcoming church, appreciative listeners. What more could one ask for?

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2019)

10th November 2018
Choral Masterpieces

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!

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2018)

17th March 2018
Bach: St John Passion

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

Eastbourne and district is well-provided with choral societies, and most achieve very high standards. One such, which never disappoints, is technically from Hailsham, but many of its members live in the town. Their Secretary, for example, dwells within a stone’s-throw of the the welcoming church (All Saints) chosen as the venue for their performance of Bach’s St John Passion on Saturday 17th March 2018.

End of concert photo

This masterpiece is, without question, one of the most challenging choral works in the repertoire. First one must decide whether to use an English translation or the German original. Then one must decide what “accompaniment” to provide: large orchestra, small orchestra (preferably baroque in stye), or organ? The director/conductor must find six soloists who are capable of bringing-off their demanding parts.

It all came together most excitingly in this Hailsham/Eastbourne presentation. Jozik Kotz opted for the original German, and provided a printed English translation in addition to a fine “normal” programme giving historical background, details of the soloists, and so on. The relatively small baroque orchestra, though un-named, proved to be superb, under their Leader Julia Bishop. The flutes, for example, when accompanying soprano Bethany Partridge in the aria “Ich folge” (“I follow you with joyful steps”), provided a perfect rippling cushion for this young soloist’s exquisite performance.

Bach concert poster Seldom have I been so impressed with the overall standard of solo singing. (And I speak as one who has written and presented some fifty programmes about great singers on Radio Two.) The crucial performance of Jesus, for example, found John Hancorn stepping from his usual role as conductor/director, and thus reminding us just what a fine baritone he is. Equally in command of his part was baritone Daniel Jordan, whose day-job is Director of Music at Eastbourne College. Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Leggett is already well established having won the Elisabeth Schumann Lieder Competition in 2016, and it was thrilling to see and hear a fine career blossoming before one’s eyes and ears.

The wonder-of-wonders among the soloists, however, was tenor Nick Pritchard, who sang the Evangelist part with insight and command, without need of an open score. Owing to the indisposition of lyric tenor Paul Austin Kelly, Nick readily sang both parts, wisely distinguishing which part he was singing on each occasion by moving from his “onstage” position to an alternative “in among the onlookers” stance when he was no longer Evangelist. It was a fine example of professional generosity.

All this would have meant little had the members of the choir (or the conductor) not been up to their tasks. They certainly were, however, from the quiet opening orchestral music, and from the singers’ dramatic first entry on “Herr, unser Herrscher”. And that command never flagged. They looked good in their red and black, and the choir even provided four additional soloists in Rachel Chilton (soprano, as the maid), Marcus Haddow and Robert Wicks (tenors, as servants), and Graham Keeley (bass, as Peter who denied Christ thrice). This “strength in depth” was further illustrated by the presence at the chamber organ of Colin Hughes, their regular pianist at rehearsals. Colin is one of those musicians every conductor needs to know. He plays several instruments, and I even espied him carrying a violin during the evening: though I never spotted why.

So that was a 100% success. The undoubted hard work paid off in confident, accurate and moving music-making. Yet, behind it all, the horror of Christ’s death on the cross was made manifest in Bach’s great music. An evening to remember, for sure.

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2018)

11th November 2017
Brahms: Requiem

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

For those who, like me, love good singing and drama, Eastbourne has been well-served recently. One evening brought EODS to the Devonshire Park in an excellent production of My Fair Lady, and less than 24 hours later (on Saturday November 11th) I was at All Saints Church for Brahms’s moving German Requiem.

Choir seated at start of concert


Hailsham Choral’s conductor and director of music Jozik Kotz is a master when it comes to planning a programme which fits a particular date, and on this occasion he linked the 99th anniversary of the Armistice (which ended the Great War) with a remembrance of Brian Maskell, one of the choir’s stalwarts who died in July. He made the brave decision to do the Requiem in Brahms’s own arrangement for two pianos, and I was interested to see if this master-work was as masterful when deprived of the composer’s string-writing. In the event the loss of strings was proved to be balanced by an extra clarity which enabled the choir itself to become the focus of attention.

From the moment the choir appeared, to sing Douglas Guest’s short “For the Fallen”, the singers caught the eye by their admirable turn-out: men in D.J’s with red bow-ties, ladies in black with matching red jackets. And they sang wonderfully, from the quietest pianissimo to a blazing forte.

Pianists Will Hancox and Colin Hughes have well-deserved reputations way beyond Sussex, and delivered the goods with both panache and reverence. Before they embarked on the main work of the evening, they gave us Rachmaninov’s Romance from his Suite for Two Pianos, which seemed to gain from the subtle difference in sound between Will’s Grand and Colin’s electronic instrument.

The two soloists in the Requiem were ideal choices for their parts. Noa Lachman now lives locally, but came with an established reputation as a lyric soprano, while baritone Andrew Rupp has even been a soloist at the Last Night of the Proms. Not surprisingly they could soar above the choir as needs be.

Congratulations are due to whoever compiled the detailed and informative illustrated 16‑page Programme which reminded us that the Hailsham Choral Society will be back at All Saints on March 17th with Bach’s St John Passion, and a baroque orchestra.

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2017)

Summer 2017 poster

1st July 2017
Rutter: Magnificat &
Haddow: The Whispering Mass

No concert review for this one, but the evening was noteworthy for the first performance of parts of a new composition The Whispering Mass by one of our choir members, Marcus Haddow. Marcus writes about its composition:

“The Whispering Mass started to write itself while driving one day...The music just cut through the babble of the BBC2 breakfast show with such ferocity that I had to scribble down the ideas in my diary at the next available carpark”.

We look forward to singing the whole of the work at a future date.

Good Friday 14th April 2017
Stainer: The Crucifixion

25th March 2017
Handel: Dettingen Te Deum & Messiah Part II

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

Jozik Kotz (pronounce that Yewjik, approximately) has been Musical Director of Hailsham Choral Society for more than a decade. His choir is, by now, undoubtedly one of the finest in this area; and a double-dose of Handel at All Saints Church on March 25th certainly bore out this judgment.

One of the works performed (Messiah) is well-known, though there are very many alternative ways of playing it. The other (Dettingham Te Deum) is seldom heard, so it was well-judged to describe the work's background in a nicely-produced 12-page programme. Wise, too, to place Dettingham before the interval, thus enabling the audience to go home with the Hallelujah Chorus ringing in their ears.

Handel planned this Te Deum as a grand celebration of a British victory over the French in July 1743. Unfortunately its first performance was five months delayed, and took place in the tiny Chapel Royal of St James's Palace. We were privileged to hear it in the relatively spacious acoustic of All Saints Church. Choir, orchestra and soloists showed throughout that they had assimilated the composer's grand intentions. The strings , led by Brian Knights, seemed to relish a work which was probably new to most of them, and there was some fine solo trumpet in “Thou art the King of Glory”, “Day by Day” and “In Thee have I Trusted”. The substantial solos for bass voice were commandingly delivered by Daniel Jordan, who never seemed to suffer the problems of a baritone singing a bass role. Rebecca Anstey (mezzo-soprano, but singing contralto) brought great beauty of tone to the concluding section of a work we should hear more often.

Messiah Part Two showed the performers on home territory. The choir was responsive to every nuance of Jozik's conducting, with the balance between male and female voices perfect. There were a few surprises: for example “He was cut off” and the following “But thou didst not leave” were shown on the programme as to be sung by the soprano, but in fact were projected by the magnificent tenor voice of Stephen Rooke. Catrin Woodruff was, however, able to display her high, bright soprano voice in “Thou art gone up” and “How beautiful are the feet”. The exquisite aria “He was despised” enabled Rebecca to produce her most tender tone with real feeling: something rare in big oratorios. Stephen's fine tenor-sound (more Pavarotti than Heddle Nash) was heard again in “Thy Rebuke” and “Behold and See”.

Evenings like this don't happen by chance. They need ample focussed rehearsal, and no doubt their rehearsal pianist Colin Hughes had contributed his musical skills on many occasions. He played keyboard continuo at the performance.

The choir will be singing Stainer's Crucifixion on April 14th at Hailsham Parish Church, and Rutter's Magnificat in the Civic Community Hall on July 1st. We eagerly look forward to their next appearance in Eastbourne.

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2017)

12th November 2016
Vaughan Williams: Five Mystical Songs & European Sacred Music

Featuring works by Mozart, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Handl, Handel, Lotti, Gabrieli, Buxtehude, Monteverdi and more...

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

On November 12th 2016, Hailsham Choral Society presented, at All Saints Church, arguably the most ambitious concert in Eastbourne for many years. Under the title “Glories of European Church Music” we had items from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Bach, Handel, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Vaughan Williams are household names; but in addition we heard Gabrieli, Lotti, Monteverdi, Handl (also known as Gallus), Lassus, Buxtehude and Bruckner. Mercifully the superb 16-page printed programme was a mine of well-written information, compiled by choir-member Ian Fry.

The concert was dedicated to Caroline Hunt, who died in June. She sang with the Society almost literally to her dying day. And there could have been no greater tribute to her than the evening‘s magical performance.

Conductor Jozik Kotz, and organist Colin Hughes, drew magnificent singing from every part of the choir. Whether the demand was for a whispered pianissimo or a blazing forte, it was forthcoming. Whether the text was in German, Russian or English, everything was clear, audible and balanced.

The baritone soloist in Vaughan Williams‘s Five Mystical Songs, Bach‘s Quia Fecit and Buxtehude‘s Magnificat was Daniel Jordan, Director of Music at Eastbourne College. He impressed with his evenness over the entire baritone range, and his immersion in the music. He will be a fine addition to the soloists available in the Eastbourne area. Equally impressive was the fact that several solo parts were taken most ably by members of the choir.

During the interval I ran into Colin Tarn, a former conductor of the same Choral Society. Colin‘s musical background was vast, ranging from musical direction of several London shows, to sparkling jazz pianism, and a sense of musical humour that was even more persuasive than Victor Borge. His generous comment on the evening of music-making we were enjoying was, “If I could have got even a tenth of that quality when I was conducting the Society I‘d have been well-satisfied”. So don‘t take my personal glowing report as “gospel”. A real expert was even more admiring.

(Review by Robin Gregory : Nov 2016)

19th March 2016
Haydn: St. Nicholas Mass & Mozart: Requiem

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

Haydn (1732 - 1809) was a generation older than Mozart, yet he outlived the younger composer by some eighteen years. Hailsham Choral Society’s decision to perform Haydn’s St Nicholas Mass of 1772 immediately before Mozart’s Requiem , which was left incomplete at the composer’s death in 1791, was a masterstroke. Their printed programme contained superb essays dealing with the composers’ friendship and mutual admiration.

Hailsham Choral Society, under their conductor for ten years Jozik Kotz, brought passion, conviction and musical insight to both works. All Saints, Eastbourne proved an ideal venue for the Haydn Mass: welcoming, full, and acoustically appropriate. From the very start Eastbourne’s Mayor, Janet Coles, enjoyed a performance that did full justice to this half-hour of incomparable choral music. The 30-piece orchestra (led by Lisa Wigmore) was in great form, the choir had clearly been brought to perfection at just the right moment, and the four soloists could not have been better chosen. Lyric soprano Noa Lachman and mezzo Rebecca Anstey used their very different voices to great effect, blending when required, each with individual beauty in solo passages. Tenor Stephen Rooke displayed both power and delicacy as required: a voice that has been honed in the opera-house without ever losing its bloom. Riccardo Simonetti (baritone) showed that winning the Anne Ziegler Award (mis-spelled in the programme) while still at college was no accident.

Mozart’s Requiem was completed by Sussmayr, and the printed programme described the stressful process that brought this about. Though it is often said that he was not the equal of Mozart, the fact is that in a performance as convincing as that given on the 19th of March at All Saints we are forever in his debt. This masterwork duly received an extended ovation, well-deserved by choir, orchestra and the same four soloists.

Hailsham’s fine Choral Society can be heard in Pevensey’s 800 year-old St Nicholas Church at 7 pm on June 11th. They give a Summer Concert in Hailsham’s Community Hall at 3 pm on July 3rd, and are back at Eastbourne’s All Saints on November 12th.

(Review by Robin Gregory : Mar 2016)

7th November 2015
Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Concert review by Robin Gregory

Arriving early for the concert at All Saints Church on November 7 (in the hope of avoiding Eastbourne’s parking difficulties) I had time to study the printed programme. Four illustrated pages contained a superb account by choir member Ian Fry of Rossini’s life.

This placed the night’s single work in the context of the composer’s brilliant career. In addition I was able to read biographies of the four soloists: an impressive line-up indeed. Noa Lachman has recently established herself as one of the best lyric sopranos hereabouts; Rebecca Anstey is a mezzo with the tone and range to sing as a contralto when required; tenor Stephen Rooke is equally at home in opera as in oratorio (an essential in the Petite Messe Solennelle, the night’s undertaking); and Riccardo Simonetti is a widely experienced baritone.

Rossini’s Messe is by no means Petite. This remarkable setting of the Latin Mass was his last major work, and all his vast operatic experience is therein. It was an inspiration on the part of conductor Jozik Kotz to give us a performance with the composer’s original accompaniment of piano and harmonium, though of course the latter was electronically activated. Colin Hughes (who can turn his hand to organ, piano and violin with equal facility) and John Ross (distinguished organist joining the Hailsham forces for the first time) were the two keyboard rocks on which Jozik built his superb musical edifice.

Throughout, the Hailsham Choral Society was beyond any criticism. The quiet passages never lost balance, the tone was round and smooth, and the climaxes (as in the great Amen which ends the Resurrexit) were spine-tingling. Some of the solo items deserve special mention too: the thrilling power of Stephen Rooke’s Domine Deus; the ethereal beauty of Noa Lachman’s O salutaris; the manner in which harmonium merged into the wonderfully-played piano’s Preludio Religioso; the combination of power with spirituality in Rebecca Anstey’s closing Agnus Dei.

The Hailsham Choral Society is back in Eastbourne with Mozart and Haydn on March 19 next year. Unmissable!

(Review by Robin Gregory : Nov 2015)

21st March 2015
Haydn: Imperial 'Nelson' Mass
Purcell: 'Funeral Music for Queen Mary' and
'Te Deum Laudamus & Jubilate Deo in 'D'

Autumn 2014 poster

8th November 2014
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms
Parry: Songs of Farewell

Haydn: Insanae et vanae curae
Parry: Blest pair of Sirens
and more...

Concert review by Robin Gregory

Choir turns problem into triumph

Eastbourne is a town where lovers of choral singing can enjoy performances by an abundance of good choirs. A “Concert for the Eve of Remembrance Sunday” at All Saints Church showed the talented Hailsham Choral Society in fine form. Yet conductor Jozik Kotz had been obliged to concoct an entirely new programme with only a few weeks’ notice when circumstances forced the abandonment of the work already in preparation.

In the event, those who braved a stormy night were rewarded with some fine singing and playing. And what a range of music we heard: Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner, Parry, Handel, Bernstein, Guest and Neal. Furthermore, a remarkable line-up of soloists was added to the unfailing beauty of tone which Jozik drew from his choir. Twenty-three year old soprano Nia Coleman filled the church with golden sound in Mozart’s Laudate Dominum and Dona nobis pacem, and in Handel’s How beautiful are the feet and Let the bright seraphim. Hers is a lyric voice already under complete control: she will go far.

Soloists Ben Hancox-Lachman joined Nia as soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. He is just thirteen, the son of pianist William Hancox and soprano Noa Lachman. Soon he will face the moment when his present liquid treble will “break”, but his musically-gifted parents will give him sound advice. In the unlikely event of his singing voice “vanishing” he is already no mean cellist!

The solo harp in the Psalms was none other than Jane Lister, who had recorded the part with the composer conducting. Fabian Edwards was percussionist par excellence in this noble work: no surprise, as he had earlier in the programme played Gorymdaith (Procession), a five-minute display of varied (sometimes remorseless) percussionism by Alex Neal (born in Colchester, 1971).

Other items included Motets by Bruckner, Blest Pair of Sirens and Songs of Farewell by Parry, and For the Fallen by Douglas Guest. Throughout, the organ or keyboard was played to perfection by Colin Hughes. Jozik proved once again that he is an all-round musician (his baritone singing and his conducting skills are well known) by playing the oboe in Let the Bright Seraphim. From within the choir Pam Russell, Marcus Haddow and GrahamKeeley sang their solo passages with assurance.

This is a choir with depth. Bass Ian Fry, I learn, compiled the thorough, informative and readable printed programme. Their carol concert is on Dec 18th in Hailsham, and then on March 21st they are back at All Saints with Haydn’s Nelson Mass.

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2014)

5th April 2014
Duruflé: 'Requiem'
Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
Rutter: 'Mass of the Children'

with Bede’s School Choir

Concert review by Robin Gregory

Fauré was a nineteen year old student when he wrote the prize-winning “Cantique de Jean Racine”. In it is the unmistakeable sound that will make him one of France’s favourite composers, and within its five minute span one can judge the quality of any choir which sings it. Conductor Jozik Kotz drew a magically spiritual sound from the Hailsham Choral Society, admirably accompanied on All Saints Church’s fine organ by Colin Hughes, who is now well-established as Director of Music at Bede’s School.

Duruflé’s Requiem was composed between 1941 and 47, but there is nothing “modern” about it. It looks back to Fauré’s Requiem. Indeed, much of its inspiration derives from far-earlier Plainsong. It is establishing itself as a popular choice by choirs who can enter its other-worldliness without losing the musical impetus. Jozik is himself a fine singer with an established career, and I suspect he spent a lot of time at rehearsal drawing the necessary subtlety from his performers. The result was a rendering that seemed to integrate every thread into a magic calm. Colin Hughes (organ) and soloists Nia Coleman and James Proctor were part of this magic.

There’s nothing “modern” about John Rutter’s “Mass of the Children” either, even though its first performance was in New York a mere eleven years ago, conducted by the composer. It’s a big challenge, with children performing alongside an adult choir. The score is unfailingly tuneful, but it bristles with moments when musical discipline can fail, and not all conductors can integrate their resources for this forty-minute show-piece. On this occasion we were treated to a marvellous example of how it should be done. The Bede’s Choir had clearly been taught to sing properly by Colin Hughes. The same soloists (Nia and James) were an integral part of the whole rather than being spot-lit celebrities. The Hailsham Choral Society was on fine form. No wonder the former Head of Bede’s (bravely nursing a serious ski injury) had a smile on his face. There was one on mine too.

(Review by Robin Gregory : April 2014)

9th November 2013
Purcell: 'Dido and Aeneas' & Opera Choruses

Concert review by Robin Gregory

How to put on a great choral concert....

Imagine you are the conductor of a large choral society. You know your singers well - their strengths and their limitations.
You choose to stretch them to the limit, confident they will rise to the occasion.

Next book a venue and a date - Saturday, November 9 and All Saints Church in Eastbourne. There you can be sure church manager, 'Andie' Anderson, will welcome you with a smile and a warm building.
You decide to present a complete performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as Part One, and that requires several soloists. They don't come cheap, so you begin by thinking carefully about choir members with the ability to carry a solo part.
You decide Fiona and Marcus Haddow, Rachel Chilton and Christina Lynn will make fine Witches, Spirits and a Sailor, but you'd better be sure the role of Dido and her handmaid Belinda are in very gifted hands.
And here's where local knowledge pays off, because you know Bede's School has a fine mezzo who teaches there, and that an outstanding lyric soprano lives in Herstmonceux.
You book Rebecca Anstey and Noa Lachman. Oops, almost forgot the tenor. Give Richard Ogden a buzz. He has Eastbourne connections (College), and sings with the Oxford Clerks. Relief - he's available.
Job done? Oh dear, no! You need an orchestra. Choose a leader - vastly experienced Lisa Wigmore says she can be there. Somehow, you put together a large band of experienced musicians. Just as well, for the demands on them will be considerable.
Nothing much to do now except rehearse, encourage, inspire, think of transport, study scores, arrange for a useful and informative printed programme, arrange drinks for the interval...
Lucky the man in charge, conductor and musical director Jozik Kotz, has sung at Glyndebourne, Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Madrid .................

So how did they all do? Wonderfully.
Hailsham Choral Society has made a 'home' at All Saints, and there's a big audience, including the Mayors of Eastbourne and Hailsham. The opening opera goes well. The ex-choir soloists give confident, characterful performances and Noa Lachman's exquisite lyric soprano sits perfectly on the playing of the orchestra.
Rebecca Anstey not only covers the range demanded of a Dido, but doubles as the Sorceress, where she wears a fetching silver mask to add a touch of menace.
Richard Ogden sings musically, conveying the dilemma facing Aeneas. A good first half indeed!
Part Two is, if anything, even more amazing. Choir, orchestra and Noa waft many a gentle breeze in Idomeneo. This is the best of Mozart, and he must have been smiling to hear such ravishing sounds.
Change of mood. The Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's Prince Igor. Jozik wields the whip, demands a swift tempo, and gets it. Choir and orchestra respond, and the boom-ta-ra, boom-ta-ra section almost topples the church steeple.
We are relieved (once the applause dies away) to hear both Noa and Rebecca safely outside the "Cav" Church, joining the choir in Mascagni's Easter Hymn.
This beautiful interlude in what is now thought of as the first verismo opera was followed by another mood-change: Rebecca is now Bizet's Carmen in the Habanera: not too sexy (this is a church, after all), but secure and foot-tapping over the entire vocal range.
The concert ends with three of Verdi's hits. Unbelievably he was born 200 years ago, but the excerpts from Traviata, Nabucco and Aida sound as fresh as ever.
By now chorus and orchestra are in full flight, and there's some stunning brass to be heard above the soaring strings.
This was, surely, the best ten-quid's worth in town - an evening to make even the wind and rain bearable!

(Robin Gregory: Taken from Eastbourne Herald - 22nd November 2013)

10th November 2012
Vaughan Williams: 'Donna Nobis Pacem' & Puccini 'Messa di Gloria'

Concert review by Robin Gregory:

Golden Rules for Choral Societies to ensure a great evening: first, choose a warm, welcoming venue; second, offer music that is a little out of the ordinary but which is packed with tunes; third, provide an informative programme booklet; and fourth, Work! Work! Work! On November 10th everything came right for the visit to Eastbourne of immensely talented conductor Jozik Kotz with the Hailsham Choral Society. Not only were the “rules” carried out to the letter, but the choir, soloists and orchestra were in great form.

Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams is a demanding work mainly composed in 1936 but using a composition from 1911 as one of its six movements. The orchestra (un-named, but led by well-known Lisa Wigmore) numbered some three dozen instrumentalists, and their playing under the conductor’s clear beat was well up to the great demands made on it. The Hailsham Choral Society gave a thoroughly committed account of a masterpiece which sets words by Walt Whitman, passages from the Bible, the Latin Mass, and a speech dating from the days of the Crimean War. Inevitably some of the words were drowned by RVW’s orchestration at times, which is why a clearly-printed programme that offers listeners the texts is so important.

This account of one of the less-heard triumphs of the English choral tradition had three secret weapons: soloists of exceptional quality. Noa Lachman lives locally and is as good a lyric soprano as one could hope to hear anywhere. Her floated pianissimos and her unfailing musicality would have delighted the composer, who would have been equally enthusiastic about the bass-baritone Edward Price. This duo’s tonal beauty, power and insight were an irresistible combination.

The other work was by Puccini: a Mass usually billed as Messa di Gloria, though the title was incorrectly chosen by a publisher as late as 1951. (A true Messa di Gloria has only a Kyrie and a Gloria, whereas Puccini’s work has in addition a Credo, a Sanctus, and an Agnus Dei.) Again, fine singing and playing, with Welsh tenor Stephen Rooke’s ringing Nessun Dorma-like voice in evidence, and Edward Price ably singing both baritone and bass parts. The orchestra and choir, refreshed after the interval, were (shall we say) “gentler” than in the RVW work, but that is just as it should be. We were delighted to have had such a fine evening which gave us all the opportunity to become familiar with two works that deserve more exposure than they have had hitherto.

(Robin Gregory 12th Nov 2012)

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