115th Season: Programmes and Reviews (2018-2019)

Autumn Concert (Remembrance Sunday) 11th November 2018 in the Assembly Hall

Delius: The walk to the Paradise Garden
Elgar: The spirit of England
Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem

Critique of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society’s “In Memoriam concert Sunday 11th November 2018

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Society’s choice of three English country pieces was entirely appropriate for the Armistice Centenary and a fitting memorial to the society’s late president, Guy Huntrods (a veteran of the Second World War).

Robyn Sevastos, making a very welcome debut with RTWCS, sensitively conducted the orchestra in Fredrik Delius “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” from the opera “A Village Romeo and Juliet”. This gentle piece was played with clarity; the heartrending and expressive Romantic harmonies most descriptive of the doomed young lovers. “The Spirit of England” by Edward Elgar was written to the war poet Laurence Binyon’s poetry and exposes the suffering caused by the First World War. The chorus started with a confident sound, ably assisted by soloist Eleanor Sanderson-Nash whose clear soprano voice floated effortlessly over choir and orchestra, with precise articulation. The cantata was performed in true Elgar style, with dramatic graduations of tone, although there were occasions when the orchestra overpowered the choir and some diction was lost. The second movement’s subtle use of minor keys and slower tempi was beautifully portrayed by both choir and soprano, expressing the despair and helplessness of the women left behind. There was much warmth in the choral tone and an emotive entry by the soprano soloist in “For the Fallen”, followed by a well-executed rhythmic march section leading to a wonderful diminuendo “We will remember them”. The finale revealed some fine choral singing.

After the interval, the audience was presented with the cantata “Dona Nobis Pacem” so evocative of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ modal style. A gentle start with a wonderfully clear soprano solo entry was followed by a powerfully rhythmic section of choir and orchestra together in which the racing triplets were handled with apparent ease. “In Reconciliation” introduced the warm, expressive baritone voice of Adam Maxey, accompanied with sensitivity by the choir. “The Dirge for Two Veterans” fully stretched the use of vocal and orchestral dynamics, and the choir dealt with modulations with ease and accuracy. There were some beautiful nuances of tone, combined with a sense of desperation in the tutti movements, clearly painting the vivid battle scenes. A calm and controlled softly sung finale expressed hope and optimism for the future.

Conductor Robyn Sevastos took full control of both choir and orchestra, drawing out the musical emotions but never allowing them to become self-indulgent. Excellent tuning was evident throughout. This was another very moving concert in keeping with the choral society’s usual high standard of performance. Congratulations must also go to rehearsal accompanist Craig Hudson and the RTWCS orchestra leader Bernard Brooks. A most enjoyable concert.
Michele Roszak
11th November 2018