Be My Guest: Matt Bamford reviews the Chamber Choir concert at Wye

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest post and contributions. This week, first-year International Business and French student Matt Bamford reviews last Friday’s concert by the Chamber Choir.

The rural village of Wye was the setting for another fantastic concert by the University of Kent Chamber Choir, conducted by the Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding. The church at Wye is a great building, although we quickly realised that it was also very cold- warmer outside than inside in fact!

The concert aimed to explore the rich and varied music of England, Wales and Scotland and this aim was certainly achieved as the programme travelled from madrigals by Weelkes to a brilliant arrangement of the jazz piece Flowers by Watkiss.

The concert began with the religious version of the English round Perspice Christicola which was the oldest piece that was sung by the choir. The audience were then treated to two pieces of Henry Purcell which were again, excellently delivered.

The piece that stood out for me in the first half and was received with great applause from the rest of the audience was The Gallant Weaver by James Macmillan. The modern piece composed in 1997, based on the 1791 text by Robert Burns, had a very Gaelic feel and the sopranos really did excel. All three soprano parts in the arrangement were all handled very well and this allowed the tranquil mood of the piece to be brought out well.

After a short interval, (and an unsuccessful trip to try and find a glass of wine!) the second half began with the secular lyrics to the same English round that began the concert, Sumer is Icumen in. The second half was full of excellent performances but the last three pieces really did stand out.

Weelkes’ madrigal Hark, All Ye Lovely Saints Above was superbly performed and the contrast in dynamics really stood out. There was a fantastic beat that was defined by the emphasis of certain words and this really added to the madrigal fun!

I have heard many arrangements of Steal Away but there really is something quite incredible about Chilcott’s. It begins with an almost dissonant and uncertain feel but there is a climax in the middle of the piece that was probably the most powerful part of the concert. Again, fantastic dynamic control here from the choir.

The concert certainly ended with a bang, Harding’s arrangement of Cleveland Watkiss’ piece Flowers. The audience really took well to this piece that you would not normally expect to hear in this programme. As I looked around I could see many pensioners almost dancing to the fantastic beat that was held down by the bass section. I must point out here also that there was some brilliant improvised scatting from Steph Richardson.

Congratulations to all on a clever programme that was delivered to a very high standard! I am already excited for June’s concert at St. Vincent’s Church, Littlebourne!

Go ahead and jump!

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