St Mary's Saffron Walden was filled to overflowing on Saturday evening for the gala concert celebrating the town's history and present musical strength and as part of the London 2012 Festival. Titled "Maze Music" on account of the turf and hedge mazes in the town, the concert proved to be a total inspiration for performers and audience alike, bringing together children and adults in a glorious outpouring of music.
The organisers had had the vision and foresight to combine three locally based choirs and the internationally renowned Britten Sinfonia, thus giving the younger musicians a chance to make music of a high standard with experienced top class musicians. The whole concert was directed by Janet Wheeler and the town is indeed fortunate to have such a gifted and inspiring musician in their midst, for she has the ability to produce the very best out of her forces.
The Choral Society sang with its usual vitality and precision, opening the concert with that great favourite "Let all the world in every corner sing" by Vaughan Williams, followed by a stirring performance of the gospel song "The storm is passing over". The young musicians of SignuptoSing delighted the audience with their clear, bright tone, excellent diction and intonation. It was good to hear them performing with such obvious enjoyment and confidence.
Amongst the most exciting items in the concert were the three compositions written by the County High School musicians, the results of a composition project run by the composer Elspeth Brooke in conjunction with members of the Britten Sinfonia. The three pieces showed real imagination, with a feel for musical colour and shape. It must have been a real thrill for these young composers to hear their music so expertly played by members of the Sinfonia.
The chamber choir, Granta Chorale showed real musicianship and a beautiful blend in works by William Byrd, Paul Mealor and Gustav Holst, demonstrating again what a fine choir trainer they have in Janet Wheeler.
After sensitive performances of movements from Michael Tippet's Divertimento on the Elizabethan dance tune "Sellinger's Round by the Britten Sinfonia, the concert ended with the cantata "Maze", written specially for the occasion by Janet Wheeler with words by Nick Warburton. The work presents the journey through a maze in a series of stages in "a mixture of narration and almost recitative-like singing, interspersed with songs and semi-dramatic episodes". The cantata is scored for choir, narrator (Mark Brignal), soprano soloist (Lydia White), baritone soloist (Edward Price) and orchestra, and included some beautifully choreographed dancing from members of the Kate Plummer School of dance. The whole performance had tremendous conviction and drive and was a spectacular success.
A truly memorable and exciting concert which did Saffron Walden proud.
Review by Richard Latham, 3 March 2012
MAZEMUSIC- part of Music Nation St Mary's Saffron Walden was filled to overflowing on Saturday evening for the gala concert celebrating the town's history and present musical strength and as part of the London 2012 Festival. Titled "Maze Music" on account of the Turf Maze and the Hedge Maze in the town, the concert proved to be a total inspiration for performers and audience alike, bringing together children and adults in a glorious outpouring of music.
Three local choirs combined with Britten Sinfonia to showcase the rich musical and cultural heritage of the town and celebrate rich diversity of local music-making. Music ranged from Vaughan Williams' joyful "Let all the world in every corner sing" through Paul Mealor's "Ubi Caritas" to "Fields of Gold" by Sting.
Compositions by local A-level students, written as part of a project with Elspeth Brooke and members of Britten Sinfonia, were also premiered to great acclaim.
The whole project was inspired and directed by Janet Wheeler whose own composition, MAZE, with libretto by Nick Warburton, provided a spectacular climax to the concert.
Janet Wheeler, musical director commented: "This partnership between three very accomplished but different choirs and the wonderful Britten Sinfonia has been so rewarding, and it was a privilege to have them performing my music. The tremendous response we've had to the concert from all quarters has been absolutely overwhelming."
Judith Hasler, Chairman of Saffron Walden Choral Society, commented: "It's thrilling that an idea hatched over a year ago has come to fruition, bringing together so many talented and committed members of our local community"
Granta Chorale member, Steve Cass commented: ..."it is sometimes said that singing is a dying art but where the whole community is brought together in an event like this it goes to show what an uplifting experience it can be"
Saffron Walden Choral Society
SignuptoSing Youth Choir
Kate Plummer School of Dance
Saffron Walden Society of Change Ringers, Saffron Walden Camera Club
The project was sponsored by the Yellow Car Charitable Trust.
Post project review for Making Music, 3 March 2012