Review: Philharmonic Chorus Celebration Concert

Not what you would call an entirely triumphant 80th birthday celebration concert from the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and its music director Darius Battiwalla, with a little help from the Sheffield Bach Choir.

It ended in triumph, though, with the shortest piece performed, Let All the World in Ev’ry Corner Sing!

The longest item on the all-Vaughan Williams programme, the dramatic and emotionally charged cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, had its moments of spine tingling effect within admirable choral commitment and endeavour but, ultimately, failed to come off.

If the two soloists, soprano Jennifer Rust and baritone Oliver Dunn, had lifted their projection by a notch or two into the City Hall’s wide spaces it would have helped.

The same malady tended to afflict the chorus in the work’s quieter sections, too, as it did in the concert’s opening piece, an otherwise joyful rendering of O Clap Your Hands.

Frankly, the Serenade to Music is best heard as VW originally wrote it, and makes more sense text-wise, for 16 soloists (four each, SATB). One of the alternative versions he later wrote was for four soloists, chorus and orchestra, a much bigger one on the evidence here.

If this was the version heard, there were three soloists with tenor Joshua Ellicott joining the other two and livening the trio up!

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra was faultless throughout, offering the Fantasia on Greensleeves under its own steam and supporting highly promising teenage violinist Callum Smart in a ‘Classically’ pure account of The Lark Ascending.

 

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