REVIEW: A celebration of Advent with Ardingly Choral Society

From left: Marianne Goodale (soprano), David Hadden (bass), Robert Hammersley (conductor), John Baker (tenor) and Olivia Bell (soprano)
From left: Marianne Goodale (soprano), David Hadden (bass), Robert Hammersley (conductor), John Baker (tenor) and Olivia Bell (soprano)

Advent Carol Concert by Candlelight in aid of St Peter & St James Hospice, Ardingly Choral Society, Ardingly College Chapel, Tuesday, December 19

Schubert’s short Mass in G, composed by the then virtually unknown teenage agnostic in 1815 – when his musical output was especially prolific – has deservedly become a favourite in the repertoire.

Succinct, optimistic and graceful, it lent itself to this warm, unhurried chamber interpretation.

Robert Hammersley conducted an on-form Ardingly Choral Society, supported by a strong string quartet led by Alina Walsh, with an equally accomplished flautist, Monika Lavelle, and organist, David Moore.

The soloists, expressive, empathetic and crystal clear, caught the penitential Advent theme. The outstanding parts of this youthful work were the Gloria (featuring soprano Marianne Goodale), conveying a heartfelt adoration, and the final Agnus Dei, in which first Olivia Bell (soprano), then David Hadden (bass), reverentially complemented by the choir, humbly implored the gift of peace.

Before this the choir’s a capella chants by candlelight had set the appropriate calm, expectant mood for us all to join in a gentle, confident rendition of ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’. That hushed yet excited anticipation was maintained in the other congregational carols – including ‘Silent Night’ in English and German – in an imaginative programme, with movements of the Mass interspersed by choral and instrumental pieces. These included a fine tenor solo by John Baker in Ramirez’s ‘El Nacimiento’, the instrumentalists in close ensemble – ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ and the Pastorale from Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’ – and a refreshingly unsentimental rendering of Adam’s ‘O Holy Night’ (choir and obbligato flute).

Altogether, this was a celebration of Advent to savour, ear-catchingly gift wrapped in velvet tones and with a generous collection for the Hospice.

Ardingly Choral Society’s next performance is Brahms’ Requiem (in English) in the College Chapel at 7.30pm on April 22.

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