June 2014 Review

It was a privilege to be at the Ware Choral Society Summer Concert on Saturday evening. This event marked the 40th anniversary, both of the choir’s conductor, Julian Williamson, and its accompanist, Barbara Manning. This impressive achievement was celebrated with outstanding performances from all involved.

The concert began with Handel’s seventh Chandos Anthem. A text of thanksgiving, it was an apt choice and revealed qualities heard again in the Beethoven Mass. There were commitment, discipline and accuracy from the choir, stylish and vibrant playing form the Pro Arte orchestra and delightful singing from the soloists. Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano) and Michael George (bass) appeared as scheduled but Alison Wells (mezzo) and Jon English (tenor) replaced the original choices at very short notice.

Next, Barbara Manning was soloist in Beethoven’s fourth piano concert, for the pianist a work full of technical challenge and continuously rich musical invention. Barbara Manning responded with beautiful intelligent playing throughout, displaying a variety of tone, superb control and a vitality that brought the moment alive yet led it upwards. A similarly keen perception of structure informed Julian Williamson’s conducting and the Pro Arte complemented the excellent soloist perfectly, with some particularly fine string playing.

Finally there was Beethoven’s Mass in C and to say that if matched the concerto is deservedly high praise. From the opening Kyrie to the closing Dona nobis pacem, this was indeed a Mass with everything serving the composer’s expression of the liturgical drama. The choir sang not only with the necessary clarity but with a range of expression that was matched most sensitively by the orchestra. The soprano and bass soloists were especially fine but all four persuasively carried forward the narrative of the Mass. As ever, the conductor created the space in which everyone could give their best, and the inspiration to do so.

It was obvious the Society loves these two dedicated and exceptional musicians: and with very good reason.