Newbury Chamber Choir: Music for Eastertide at St John’s Church, Newbury on Saturday 9th April. Review by FIONA BENNETT
FIRST he was, then he wasn’t. So he wasn’t, then he was, and then he did! The redoubtable Ed Lambert has finally handed over the baton of the Newbury Chamber Choir to someone else. And not just any old someone else, but a very young one with an already impressive track record under his belt.
Ben de Souza is not only a choir director, but also a singer and, believe it or not, a classical accordionist. It has a lovely, calm, well-paced pace and it was a joy to see how it gelled with NCC already.
There was no applause, no grand “look at me” entrance, just a few quiet footsteps approaching the podium with hands up, making sure every member of the choir was looking at it, and then we been drawn directly into the story of Easter with Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus for 6 voices. St John’s acoustics lent themselves well to this short piece and with only two days notice, Steve Bowey accompanied the choir beautifully on the chamber organ. Get well soon, Georgie.
Ben then introduced himself and introduced the next three pieces, including two by another of the great Renaissance composers, Palestrina, and then another by Lotti. We wept with Mary Magdalene as she searched for Jesus, we rejoiced with the Virgin Mary when Jesus rose from the dead; we have truly been swept away by the Easter journey in this well-rounded program.
We then heard the music of contemporary composer Gabriel Jackson. I first met Gabriel when we were both 18 and studying at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall respectively; we lived at Henry Wood House in South London and became good friends, so it was thrilling to hear his moving piece Tantum ergo. Singing a cappella is always a challenge and the tone has dropped slightly, but when I tweeted Gabriel to let him know I was listening to his beautiful music, he was thrilled.
The second half consisted of Lotti’s Missa pro defunctis and again the choir gave us a nicely balanced sound. A few strong tenor lines were nicely enriched when the basses joined them at the opening of the Kyrie. The sopranos floated beautifully above and the warm depth of the alto section was nicely complementary.
As I left St John’s, I looked back and marveled at the beautiful interior lit windows and returned home feeling soothed and peaceful.
I look forward to great things from this new union – well done Ben and well done Newbury Chamber Choir.