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The Grange Choral Society staged a special concert “Happy and Glorious” in Christchurch Priory on 16th April in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday. Performed to a large audience, most of the music had some “royal” connection, along with a number of pieces from the more general choral repertoire. Accompanied on the organ throughout by the indefatigable Christopher Dowie, they sang with vigour and enthusiasm.

Also playing a major part in the evening’s music was the 10-strong consort Decadent Brass.  There can be no doubt of this group’s outstanding ability and the colourful richness of their playing. Their solo spots included an astonishingly vigorous (and virtuoso!) rendering of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs – speeding up to a frantic ending as per the Last Night of the Proms. But I’m not sure that their first solo contribution to the evening’s programme - Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - was a wise decision: it’s a piece for string orchestra, and transcribing it for an ensemble of heavy brass instruments simply didn’t work. Later on, though, in some of the choral works their contribution produced an astonishingly powerful climax … sending tingles down the spine! But, again, for quite a lot of the time there were places where the addition of brass almost totally obscured the singing of the choir: many comments to that effect were being shared among the audience during the interval.

During the first half the choir sang Stanford’s less-well-known Gloria with confidence and a beautiful range of light and shade. Later on John Rutter’s Te Deum was also sung with enthusiasm (if with one or two slightly dodgy entries!). But it was in Elgar’s extended anthem Great is the Lord that the choir was at its very best - and this also gave organist Chris Dowie the chance to use his exceptional skills as an accompanist. The final choral work, a setting of the Gloria by John Rutter, is as far away as you could get from his ever-popular settings of Christmas carols. With many discordant passages and intervals, it was a real challenge to the choir. The end of the middle section “miserere nobis” was beautifully styled and sustained; the ending was spine-tinglingly intense and impressive. The audience’s applause said it all!

And we had all been given chances to join in and sing – not just in the National Anthem that ended the evening (with Gordon Jacob’s rousing trumpet fanfares written for the coronation in 1953), but also in Vaughan-Williams’ version of the hymn All people that on earth do dwell. I think we all left with spirits raised … even if it did take an hour or two for our ears to recover!

DEREK BALDWIN - Lymington Times.


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