Press and Publicity 2015

Concerts are regularly reviewed in the Bournemouth Echo, New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times.

Reviews from the Bournemouth Echo, The Lymington Times & New Milton Advertiser.

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Those who are inclined to think of John Rutter’s music as “saccharine” would have been disabused before the end of the opening page of his Requiem, a significant choral work sung by the Grange Choral Society at their summer concert in Christchurch Priory. The text (some English and some Latin) is set to music which ranges from stark dissonance in some places to the quietly tuneful lines of the well-known Pie Jesu, ending poignantly on its top A – beautifully handled by soprano Samantha Crawford. The whole work unquestionably made an impact on the good-sized audience. Credit should also be given to cellist Solène Chevalier who played this obligato instrumental part which is an essential element at some points in this work.

The first half of the concert consisted of music by Edward Elgar. It opened with his Give unto the Lord – a powerful and imaginative setting of the words of Psalm 29 – well-known, and often sung as an anthem by cathedral choirs. It was written originally for the 1914 “Sons of the Clergy” festival – an annual service at St Paul’s Cathedral which has been held there for over 350 years! The Grange choir gave it a suitably robust performance.

But it was the other Elgar piece that provided unexpected food for thought. The Spirit of England takes three poems by Laurence Binyon written in response to the 1st World War. These include For the fallen, with its now well-known lines used at Remembrance services everywhere: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old ... We will remember them.” Elgar’s music wonderfully reflects the many poignant images in the words: particularly moving was a poem simply called “To Women”, addressed to those left behind as their relatives went to war: it speaks of the “shots ... and stabs of steel” which “invisibly tore and entered first a woman’s breast”. This was a timely choice of music to perform now, as the centenary of the “Great War” confronts us again with the level of suffering and loss of life that it entailed. Although unfamiliar, this warrants an equal place with Elgar’s better-known choral works: an earlier critic describes it as “capturing well the sadness and desolation of war, without becoming maudlin”.

The soprano soloist is also given a major role in this work; Samantha Crawford rose magnificently to its demands, at times soaring above the tumult of full choir and organ. It was originally written to be accompanied by a full orchestra. Christopher Dowie typically took in his stride the demands of reproducing on the organ the immense range of colour, volume and the fine nuances of an orchestral score. And ... on this occasion ... he did emerge to receive the audience’s enthusiastic applause!

DEREK BALDWIN - Lymington Times.

The Grange Choral Society’s summer concert on 11th July attracted a large audience to Christchurch Priory. The first half consisted of music by Edward Elgar, beginning with a powerful rendering of his anthem Give unto the Lord. This was followed by a lesser-known work The Spirit of England, a setting of three 1st World War poems by Laurence Binyon – which included the well-known lines “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old ... We will remember them.” This was a timely choice as we mark the centenary of the “Great War”, and Elgar’s music wonderfully reflects the many poignant images in the poet’s words. The second half was a performance of John Rutter’s Requiem, in which the choir, along with soprano Samantha Crawford and cellist Solène Chevalier, made a strong impact. Organist Christopher Dowie accompanied the whole evening with great power and sensitivity.




An imaginative linking of two different settings of the Requiem attracted a large audience to the Grange Choral Society’s concert in Christchurch Priory on Saturday 18th April. No doubt it was the ever-popular work by Gabriel Fauré that drew in so many; for some, the less-familiar music of Maurice Duruflé may have come as something of a surprise. Fauré’s setting was composed in 1888, and Duruflé’s in 1947 – a period of some 60 years in which the new styles of 20th century composition had firmly taken root. The choir rose to the demands of both, from the serenity of Fauré’s In Paradisum – where the sopranos sang the opening bars with a beautiful poise and tenderness - to the ferocity of  Duruflé’s Libera Me, Domine. Throughout both works the choir’s enjoyment was clearly conveyed to the listener ... as it was in Fauré’s well-known Cantique de Jean Racine, included in the programme as a bit of a makeweight.

The Fauré music being so much more familiar did expose one or two weak points. In the well-known Sanctus, playing the violin obligato “octavo” gave rise to some intonation problems; and in Pie Jesu the flow of the beautiful melodic line was somewhat compromised by soprano Abigail Hooper taking a breath in the middle of each 2-bar phrase. Richard Hooper (bass) gave a telling account of the solo sections in the profound Libera Me, Domine, as also in a brief solo section in the Duruflé work. The composer (like Fauré before him) also chose to use a solo voice for Pie Jesu, a role to which Claire Filer (mezzo soprano) brought real conviction.

Two other individuals should be singled out for the part they played in the whole evening’s music. First, Harpist Cecilia De Maria, originally from Malta but now very much part of the British scene, opened the evening’s programme, playing with the Ensemble OrQesta in Debussy’s Danses sacree et profane. Later on she also played the significant part for harp in Fauré’s Requiem. The other was organist Chris Dowie. Playing the organ as a solo instrument, or accompanying a choir, is one thing: playing it as part of a larger orchestral ensemble is quite another. When to stand out, when to blend, when to add colour to an individual section – this all requires the utmost musicianship, sensitivity, skill and discipline. In this performance Chris Dowie demonstrated all those qualities, and applied them in an appropriate way to the two quite different works. And, when the rapturous applause breaks out – fully justified on this occasion – he remains hidden behind the console!

DEREK BALDWIN - Lymington Times.

REVIEW of Grange Choral Society Concert on Saturday 17th January 2015

The Grange Choral Society opened its 2015 season with a performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio St Paul, composed when he was only in his mid-20s. His upbringing had given him a good knowledge of the Bible and, as demonstrated in his later and better-known oratorio Elijah, he was a master at bringing the biblical texts to life through his music. It tells of the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (which Saul witnessed), going on to Saul’s own dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, leading to his apostolic ministry as St Paul – and his eventual persecution by the Jewish elders. All of this gives scope for a panorama of music at times reflective, often dramatic, and at times very powerful.

Soloists Samantha Crawford (soprano), Cátia Moreso (Contralto), Emanoel Velozo (tenor) and Loic Guguen (bass) all made a superb contribution to the performance ... each of them singing with sensitivity to the drama and the reflective moments. A section where all four sang together was pure magic. The choir’s ability to project their sound continues to grow, making a strong impression in some of the dramatic climaxes. Equally important, their singing at more reflective moments (such as the chorus Happy and blest are they ...) demonstrated a beautiful legato, and well-balanced part singing.

The recently-formed instrumental group Ensemble OrQuesta accompanied the work, providing energetic support, particularly in some of the more vigorous and colourful passages. At several points though – particularly towards the end - there were some noticeable difficulties in ensemble and rapport between orchestra and choir at the start of new sections. But, overall, this was a satisfying and impressive performance; the Society’s conductor Márcio da Silva is to be applauded for continuing to take them into some of the lesser-known reaches of the choral repertoire.

Their next concert in Christchurch Priory on 18th April will consist of works by Fauré and Duruflé – including both composers’ much-loved setting of the words of the Requiem.

DEREK BALDWIN - Lymington Times.



© Grange Choral Society 2013
 Registered Charity: 104590 President: Neil Jenkins MA CANTAB   
Vice President: Anita Hansen