REVIEW: Spring Concert, Bishopwearmouth Choral Society

ON SONG: Members of Bishopwearmouth Choral Society during a practice evening at Sunderland Minster.
ON SONG: Members of Bishopwearmouth Choral Society during a practice evening at Sunderland Minster.
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HATS off to Bishopwearmouth Choral Society – their spring concert was as uplifting as it was outstanding.

Conductor David Murray chose an all-Elgar programme – the great song cycle Sea Pictures framed by two choral pieces which proved a perfect vehicle to show off his marvellous choir.

The concert opened with Scenes from Bavarian Highlands, a relatively early work and generally lightweight in tone.

It shows Elgar at his most carefree and joyous – qualities savoured to the full in Murray’s exuberant performance.

The highlight was the haunting Aspiration, sung with reverential tenderness.

Written for the striking contralto Clara Butt, who gave the work’s première dressed as a mermaid, Sea Pictures is Elgar’s only orchestral song cycle.

It finds the composer at his most elegiac, yet with a warm twinkle in his eye.

These exquisite miniatures depict the sea in all its guises, peaceful and storm-tossed by turns.

They were sung with so much passion by Sarah Pring that in The Swimmer she was occasionally all at sea with her nautical vowel-sounds. Where Corals Lie was, however, delightfully performed.

The second half of the concert was devoted to The Music Makers, an autobiographical work, full of quotes from Elgar’s other scores. It is perhaps his most challenging and advanced vocal work in terms of harmony and rhythmic complexity.

Impassioned playing in the orchestral introduction paved the way for a choral contribution whose sharply-focused tone and unflagging energy were hugely impressive.

Whether as “dreamers of dreams” or as “the movers and shakers of the world”, the choir left the audience in no doubt of music’s power.

Keith Nixon