8th December 2012

From the Wilts & Glos Standard, 20th December 2012
Dido & Aeneas and other works – Purcell
8th December 2012

Review by Simon Pickard



Cirencester Choral Society can be congratulated on their concert of music by Henry Purcell, given in Cirencester Parish Church on Saturday evening. The first half of the concert featured imposing church music – O sing unto the Lord, Te Deum and Jubilate. An instrumental interlude – a Chaconne – was presented by the Corinium Camerata. The second half of the programme was a concert-performance of Dido and Aeneas.

The choir were purposeful throughout, and were usually clearly focused on the conductor, Carleton Etherington, whose choice of tempi was consistently well-judged. Sometimes choral entries were a little indeterminate, and fugal passages could lack clarity, although this was largely overcome in the Te Deum. Quibbles apart, this was a committed and spirited performance and at times there was a real excitement in the sound.

Instrumental accompaniment was by the Corinium Camerata. They were dexterous in the Chaconne: skilful control of rhythm, excellent ensemble, and appropriate contrasting dynamics. The cellos and double-bass provided a highly dependable foundation, and the upper strings maintained a mellifluous character throughout. They also showed themselves adept at the accompaniment of the singers, as did guest harpsichordist Gary Sieling, whose spread-notes and decoration were masterly without becoming intrusive. Trumpeters provided additional colour at key moments, and did so in such a way as to be striking.

Soloists were young musicians studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Sarah Loveys, as Dido, gave a mature performance, including a moving presentation of the great ariaWhen I am laid in earth. Jenavieve Moore has a pleasingly warm vocal tone, and was expressive. Callie Swarbrick rose well to certain points of drama, and Natalie Hyde was adroit in vocal decoration at points. Jake Daichi Gill began to relax into the part of Aeneas, allowing the always pleasing tone to become richer and darker at times. Daniel Borowski blended well with Jake in the sacred music, but also showed that he could also give considerably more power when engaged in a solo section.

My special commendation must, however, go to Grace Durham who, at short notice, found herself singing not only her own music, but also that of a soloist who was unfortunately ill. Grace gave a splendid performance as the Sorceress in Dido, showing an impressive range, an ability to be intense and dramatic, and some brilliance in dealing with melismatic and chromatic passages. It was exemplary.

At a time of year when one can perhaps get a surfeit of seasonal music, this was a refreshing concert that I was pleased to have attended. Well-done to the performers, and the many who worked behind the scenes to bring off this very worthwhile presentation of the music of a great composer.