Programmes & Reviews – 108th Season (2011-2012)

The choir had no music director for this season, and guest conductors were invited to direct performances.

Massed choirs gather for the big one – Verdi’s Requiem

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RTWCS chorus with members from the Mayfield Festival Choir and Cranbrook and District Choral Society.

19th May 2012 in the Assembly Hall

with RTWCS Orchestra, leader Jane Gomm
Fiona Howell – Soprano, Anna Harvey – Mezzo-Soprano
Philip Modino – Tenor, Michael Bundy – Baritone

Conducted by Graham Caldbeck

In memory of Malcolm Beresford

On Saturday, 19 May, Graham Caldbeck gave his final performance concert in Sussex and Kent before relocating to Jersey (for the time being).  He has been Musical Director and Conductor of the Mayfield Festival Choir for the past eight years and has left a legacy of quality music in the region.  For tonight, he brought his vision of the controlled drama and contrast of the Requiem to make the performance a spectacular success, acknowledged by the large and enthusiastic audience.

Verdi’s Requiem is a large work and large forces were assembled for it: not just the Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society, but also the Mayfield Festival Choir and the Cranbrook Choral Society – well over 120 singers in all, with a massive orchestra, including four off-stage trumpets for the Tuba Mirum and, of course, the huge ‘Verdi Drum’ to give the deepest notes.  The drama and passion of the Dies Iraeconjures up the Day of Judgment with an intensity that only an opera composer could bring, but this is contrasted with the many gloriously tuneful quieter and more thoughtful pieces, many of which featured the four soloists, who brought lyrical beauty as well as power to their parts.

In this work, the conductor’s task is multifold – to hold together such a vast assembly and to make the work coherent.  It must not be just a selection of bits;  rather, it must follow its own logic, culminating in the Libera Me, which was written first and which sums up the whole piece.  “ The choir performed brilliantly.  On several occasions, they were singing unaccompanied and, each time, when the orchestra came back in, the tuning was perfect. ”In the Libera Me, we have not only the drama of the Dies Irae and the Requiem Aeternam, but also the heartfelt plea of Libera Me itself, leading to the comparative peace of the ending.  On both counts, Mr Caldbeck succeeded splendidly. The sound was balanced (the size of the massed choir making up for the positioning of them at the back of the stage, where the curtains dampened the sound) and he brought out the contrast between the quieter passages and the loud and the progress of the work to its final calm.

The choir performed brilliantly.  On several occasions, they were singing unaccompanied and, each time, when the orchestra came back in, the tuning was perfect.  My only criticism would be that the Sanctus, which provides the dance-like foil to all of the serious funeral music, was taken a little more solemnly than I am used to.

A special word must be said for the soloists, who have a large part of the drama.  They were excellent, providing a real feel for the music.  Although it is invidious to single out one from such a fine group, I must mention the mezzo-soprano, Anna Harvey, who gave the most sensitive performance of the evening,, particularly in the Liber Scriptus, the Quid sum Miser and, above all, in the Lux Aeterna.  However, the others – Fiona Howells (soprano), Philip Modino (tenor) and Michael Bundy (Baritone) also gave sterling performances.

The orchestral writing is at times fiendishly difficult, but the orchestra rose to the occasion magnificently.

All in all, it was a splendid evening and a wonderful send-off for Graham Caldbeck.

© Quentin Rappoport

Carmina Burana

Click to view programmeIncluding Carnival of the Animals

11th March 2012 in the Assembly Hall

Alan Fairs – Baritone, Nicola-Jane Kemp – Soprano, Richard Reaville – Tenor

Accompanied by Anthony Zerpa-Falcon and Jong-Gyung Park on two Steingraeber Phoenix Pianos, plus percussion.

Conducted by Adrian Pitts

No review available – Click image to view programme

Christmas Concert

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11th December 2011 in St Mary’s Parish Church, Goudhurst

Conducted by Roland Millar

Debbie Millar (soprano) & Ian Shaw (organ & piano)
The Wadhurst Brass Band

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Roland Millar commented: “I was certainly very happy with the concert and felt that everyone did themselves justice, working hard to produce a series of performances which were alert, communicative and exciting”.

Mendelssohn’s Elijah

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Saturday, 12th November 2011 in the Assembly Hall

RTW Choral Society and Orchestra – leader Jane Gomm
Jonathan Gunthorpe – baritone (Elijah)
Michael Bracegirdle – tenor
Juliette Pochin – mezzo soprano
Sally Harrison – soprano
Ben Underhill – boy treble

Conducted by Malcolm Riley – a guest conductor engaged for the occasion.

They were accompanied by the

The society was joined by the Choir of the Tunbridge Wells Grammer School for Girls (TWGGS) who delighted us with an appropriately angelic chorus.

Unfortunately a reviewer was not available for this event.

Click on poster image to view full programme (in pdf format – opens in new window).