‘Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.’ William Byrd
Lutterworth and District Choral Society Registered Charity number 1048089
15 November 2014
At a time when commemorations, performances and ceremonies marking this centenary are taking place across the nation and beyond, it must have been something of a challenge to devise a programme with a degree of originality, moving beyond the established standards -
The Lutterworth & District Choral Society performed a range of pieces which movingly and appropriately marked the depth and significance of the occasion. They were joined by baritone Andrew Ashwin, who, as well as performing as a soloist, sang with the ensemble choir throughout. It was Andrew who began the evening with three songs from George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad. After some introductory background, referring in part to Butterworth's own untimely death on the Somme in 1916, the songs -
Throughout the evening, the works performed were interspersed with readings referring to aspects of life during The Great War. The home front, recruitment, the role of women and attitudes to German-
Karl Jenkins's choral suite from The Armed Man, which followed, is a modern piece with a powerful anti-
The readings that came after the interval showed the contrast between the optimism of those volunteering for the front and the mass slaughter which met them. Then Andrew Ashwin introduced the Peace Aria from Benjamin Britten's overtly pacifist opera Owen Wingrave. He gave the background of the extract and set the scene of the aria -
What followed was a superb performance of a powerful and at times harrowing piece. The aria was by turns dramatic, expressive and lyrical, with a conclusion which left the audience -
The reading of In Flanders Fields which followed provided a moment's reflection and recovery after such a performance, in preparation for the final item -
Well known as a requiem which eschews drama in favour of a calm, serene acceptance of death, this was the ideal conclusion to the evening, accompanied as it was by a series of telling images of Great War photographs and posters. It was sung beautifully throughout, the voices of the choir delivering both the gentler and the more intense passages with assurance. In particular the smooth, swelling harmonies of the Sanctus, the powerful falling cadences of the Lux aeterna leading to the intense restatement of the opening Requiem aeternam and the calm resolution of the final In Paradisum were special moments.
In addition, the two solo parts were equally beautifully sung. Andrew Ashwin crowned his evening with a fine baritone performance in the Offertorium and the LIbera me, both of which were wonderfully heartfelt.
The Pie Jesu, often sung by boy sopranos, works best when sung 'simply' by a female soprano -
Overall a very effective and well-
Howard J McDermott