St. George’s Day Concert

Otley and Ilkley Choral Societies

23rd April 2016

This concert was the first to be given in the newly-refurbished All Saints Church in Otley by the combined Otley and Ilkley Choral Societies. They presented a programme of English music which included some neglected gems, as well as more familiar fare.

Beginning with “In Windsor Forest”, a cantata by Vaughan Williams, it was obvious that the choir had the measure of this piece, the men coping well with the difficult diction in the wonderfully rumbustious “Drinking Song” , and there were some lovely contributions from the soprano Joanne Dexter in the recitative sections of  “Falstaff And The Fairies”. The remaining two movements were sung with conviction and admirable control.

This was followed by a performance of Walton’s rousing “Crown Imperial” march, performed by the organist Alexander Woodrow, the Elgarian trio section being delivered with an appropriate degree of gravitas . Next up was a trio of songs by Purcell, stylishly and idiomatically despatched by Joanne, and very ably accompanied by Pat Jordan. One should mention that Pat’s contribution in this concert was outstanding, particularly in the Vaughan Williams. The first half of the programme concluded with the popular “Blest Pair of Sirens” by Parry. This came off quite well, but the thick harmonies were occasionally muddied a little by the acoustics of the church.

The second part of the concert began with what for me, was the highlight of the evening- Elgar’s impassioned “The Spirit of England”; a true masterpiece that ranks with his finest works, in my opinion. This performance showcased just how far the choir has progressed under Barry Jordan’s leadership. They sang with real commitment and, notwithstanding a few minor blemishes, went a long way to realising the range of Elgar’s inspiration, and the pathos of Lawrence Binyon’s verses (the first performances of parts two and three of this work received their premiere in Leeds almost exactly a hundred years ago, by the way). There were many glorious moments, but the sound of the solo soprano soaring over the choir at various points was especially memorable, sending a tingle down the spine. The masterly accompaniment served up by Alexander provided the icing on a very rich cake.

The concert came to a close with a rendition of Parry’s “I Was Glad”- stirring stuff, and given a hardly less effective performance than the Elgar. This was a most enjoyable evening, of which the choir can be justifiably proud.

ROBIN COOK                                                            Ilkley Gazette 5 May 2016