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The concert given on
Saturday 17 March 2012
in All Saints Church, The Drive, Hove

Brighton Orpheus Choir

conductor: Stella Hull

with the Musicians of All Saints
and Nick Milner-Gulland (harpsichord)

Emily Armour (soprano)
Bethia Hourigan (alto)
Simon Marsh (tenor)
Yair Polishook (bass)

A team package

Brighton Orpheus Choir Bach B minor Mass, 17th March 2012

The Brighton Orpheus gave a fine performance of Bach’s B minor Mass in All Saints’ Church, Hove, on Saturday March 17th. It was a real pleasure to hear this magnificent work performed in such a giving, living acoustic with an excellent balance of forces.

This reviewer has heard, and been part of too many concerts where the choir has been simply out-gunned, overwhelmed or, in some instances, greatly disadvantaged by a building’s acoustics. In this event, the tiered levels, a chamber orchestra and reduced numbers accompanying the soloists gave a pleasing variety within this long, sustained and concentrated work.

I believe this Mass to have been composed as liturgical worship so its expressive range is, by its very nature, not fashioned for dramatic, concert entertainment. And this should always be borne in mind when stepping up to the performing bowl. The choral texture is very largely contrapuntal, building up in waves. My heart went out to the valiant band of tenors, outnumbered heavily and often in the front line of entries, who still sustained their line throughout. Points were secure across all parts and there was homogeneity within each voice with no single voice out-standing, a feather in the cap of their exacting conductor, Stella Hull. Diction was clear, intonation good and consonant endings neatly executed. They were able to bring out different colours in the varied textures of the long Kyrie, Et incarnatus and rousing final Osanna and Dona Nobis.

All four soloists, a team package from Trinity Laban Conservatoire, gave good accounts of themselves. The light, developing voices of Emily Armour and Bethia Hourigan balanced beautifully in the Christe eleison and in Bethia delivering the Laudamus te, Qui sedes and Agnus Dei arias delightfully and tenor Simon Marsh complementing Emily’s fine line in the Filius Patris duet. The very accomplished bass, Yair Polishook, added an extra expressive dimension in his two arias, especially the Et in Spiritum which was the most emotionally charged highlight of the evening. He was complemented well by the fiendishly difficult horn obbligato in Quoniam tu solus sanctus, proficiently delivered by Keith Maries.

The Musicians of All Saints orchestra, led by Chris Phipps, supported the choir ably, the stamina of a full day perhaps catching the trumpets out towards the very end, with sensitive individual accompanying of the young soloists, particularly the ever-green Nick Milner-Gulland’s unobtrusive continuo work. I certainly applaud the choice of a smaller band giving the choir the chance to shine, as they did all evening.

Simon Austin
Words & Music magazine