Mid Sussex Remembrance Concert - Review

Dolphin Centre, Haywards Heath, November 10, 2016. Review and photo by Melvyn Walmsley

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 4:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th November 2019, 4:11 pm
Martin Palmer, Olivia Bell, Robert Hammersley

On successive Remembrance Sundays the Dolphin Centre's rafters have been shaken by a whole-hearted, harmonious and reverential sound. Under Robert Hammersley's baton, Ardingly Choral Society, Mid Sussex Sinfonia (led by Martin Palmer), Sandra Janman's Copthorne Prep School Choir and the audience again caught the rousing optimism of Parry's Jerusalem (1916). A perfect prelude to Jonny Dunsford's pre-interval appeal: when we don't see freshly wounded service personnel returning, thousands still need the Royal British Legion, the concert's worthy beneficiary.

The final piece, Poulenc's Gloria (1959), with its kaleidoscopic changes of tempo, mood and musical colours, requires an even tighter yet calm and assured fusion of soprano soloist, orchestra, choir and conductor. Their frequent collaboration over the years enabled what the composer, a sincere believer, intended. Such polished, secure but energised momentum realised the exultation and contrasting humility of Poulenc's modern masterpiece. Its opening bang heralds a disturbing yet joyful spiritual and emotional journey towards its whispered lark-ascending solo Amen.

Earlier, such accomplished togetherness had enhanced an all-age performance of Hammersley's Remembrance. Ditto his arrangement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony Allegretto to Sassoon's Everyone Suddenly Burst Out Singing (1919), read first by Eva Zielka, a member of the school choir. The audience's applause was just as spontaneous, for her reading was mature, animated and empathetic, matching the children's rendering of True Colours (Lauper), Adiemus (Jenkins) and Rutter's The Lord Bless You.

The Society and Sinfonia delivered similarly vigorous yet sensitive performances of Gounod's Judex from Mors et Vita and two movements from Mozart's Vesperae Solennes, whose celebrated Laudate Dominum requires a first rate soprano soloist. Olivia Bell's controlled power, clear diction, unwavering legato and fidelity to the text proved ideal for this and the Poulenc. Altogether, this was a Remembrance concert worthy of the name, both musically and as a fundraising event.

Review and photo by Melvyn Walmsley