Thornbury Choral Society presented their spring (Team GB) concert of music from around the British Isles at the Castle school on Saturday 12th May. The concert opened with a sprightly performance of Purcell’s “Bell” anthem where the Alto (Helen Bruce), Tenor (Philip Styles) and Baritone (Niall Hoskin) soloists were used to good effect in dialogue with the Choir. This was followed by a more substantial piece with a contrasted setting of Psalm 48 (Great is the Lord) set to music by Elgar for Choir and Baritone soloist. The Choir was able to demonstrate a wide dynamic range and the effects of an orchestra were ably produced on the organ by the Choir’s accompanist Robin Baggs. Helen Bruce provided two Irish folksongs which were charmingly sung. We were treated to two organ pieces by James MacMillan also based on folk song themes. The folk theme continued with a set of charming Scottish folksongs sung expressively by the “Octaves”, a Thornbury based youth Choir, who were clearly directed by Kate Phillipson-Masters and sensitively accompanied by Steven Kings. The first half of the programme concluded with Wesley’s second large scale anthem from his Hereford period “Blessed by the God and Father”. This work allowed us the opportunity to hear the fine voice of the soprano soloist (Louise Merrifield) for the first time of the evening, in the central section of the work. The solo contrasted nicely with the sweet tone produced in the soprano section of the Choir. The Baritone soloist, Niall Hoskin also contributed two stirring recitative sections leading to a fugal section where a steady tempo was maintained.
The second half of the programme opened with Benjamin Britten’s setting of the Te Deum in C, which gave us the opportunity to hear the excellent soprano soloist once again. Although this is an early work it showed all the hallmarks of Britten’s style demonstrated in later and better known settings of the morning canticles. The “Octaves” returned with folksongs from Scotland and Wales and were beautifully accompanied once again by Steven Kings. The moving setting of “All though the night” ably sung in Welsh, gave the opportunity to hear a short semi-chorus section contrasting with the main Choir and was well received by the audience. Charles Wood’s well known setting of the Evening Canticles were well sung and followed by two further organ pieced composed by William Matthias, where the trade mark harmonic progressions and spiky rhythmic patterns were ably executed by Robin Baggs. The final piece was Vaughan Williams’ five mystical songs, which the Choir and Baritone soloist clearly enjoyed; particularly the triumphant finale “Let all the World”. A fine conclusion to a highly enjoyable evening.