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REVIEW: Festival of Choirs, The Anvil, Basingstoke
11:21am Tuesday 10th July 2012 in Music
BASINGSTOKE did something quite spectacular to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee; a massed choir of over 400 singers was especially formed to sing some of the most glorious music associated with the last 60 years.
They sang in four part harmony and, for one piece, in seven parts.
The choir was created from 10 local adult choirs, St Mary’s CE Junior School Choir and Boys’ Choir were there too and sometimes sang with them. What an experience for these youngsters! What an experience for us sitting in the audience.
Preparations for this concert, held in the acoustically amazing Anvil, had been going on for the last six months. The conductors of the choirs and the choir representatives held several meetings in Fairfields Arts Centre and then the individual choirs rehearsed and rehearsed!
Just as athletes train hard, so do good choirs and from the volume and richness of sound, you knew that this very special chorus was made up of many people with good voices who practise week in, week out in village, church and school halls. They even rehearse in Tadley Rugby Club and Basingstoke hospital canteen! There is so much music-making going on in this town and there are the bands and orchestras as well.
The Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Mrs Mary Fagan, was representing the Queen, deputy mayor and mayoress Cllr and Mrs Dan Putty were there representing Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Sir George Young, MP, Sir David Black and representatives of the Four Lanes Trust and Greenham Common Trust were also present.
The carefully prepared programme of music was arranged in five parts: the initial Fanfare, National Anthem and ‘Royal’ music was followed by Around the British Isles before Sixty Years of Music, British Life, and the Proms-style Finale in the second half.
In this sell-out concert with a waiting list for tickets, there was undoubtedly something for everyone. The Hannington Silver Band, conducted by Tony Wythe, accompanied most of the singing and there were also two accompanists for the piano, Michael Kenning and Paul Wright, with the latter on the organ too.
I can but tell you of the music which had the greatest impact on me personally, as we all know music touches people in different ways. Hubert Parry’s anthem I Was Glad, conducted by David Gibson, was pure class and quality singing – heavenly!
Gwahoddiad, conducted by Dai Ogborn and sung by the men only, was heartbreakingly full of ‘hiraeth’ and drama. Ye Banks and Braes, arranged by Jonathan Hedgecock and conducted by Margaret Brackenborough, was quite simply beautiful and sung by the ladies only.
Handel’s Zadok the Priest, conducted by Paul Timms, is a magnificent work and the massed choir came in with such attack and built up the excitement throughout that I had to restrain myself from standing up and cheering at the end.
There was a lighter, more humorous touch at the beginning of the second half with Stuart Hicken showing his skills as an actor as well as a conductor! The children from St Mary’s made a charming contribution with Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace and the Boys’ Choir gave a lusty performance of Consider Yourself. How they watched Theresa Lunn and listened to her lovely voice when she sang from My Fair Lady. The Hannington Band had their special moment when they played the late Queen Mother’s favourite piece Highland Cathedral.
The Finale would not have been complete without organ, piano, plenty of brass, flag-waving and flutter fetti – we had all of that!
Dai Ogborn is chairman of the Festival of Choirs and I am sure he would want this amalgamation of choirs to become an annual event. The problem he has is that if all the choirs of Basingstoke – and there are more – wanted to take part, there would be no room for the audience!
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