“Now is the Month of Maying”

“Now is the Month of Maying”, The Elgar Chorale,

St Stephen’s Church, Worcester. 6th May 2017

“Now is the Month of Maying” – A selection of Songs, Madrigals and Lullabies for May-time at St Stephen’s Church, Barbourne, Worcester.

Fresh on the heels of their superb performance of “Messiah” in March, The Elgar Chorale, under the directorship of Piers Maxim, produced an eclectic programme of choral works by English composers. There could be no more appropriate choice than four Part Songs by Elgar – “Love’s Tempest” “Serenade” “Go song of mine” and “How calmly the evening”. The Chorale displayed some beautifully shaped phrasing, balance and blend, controlled dynamics and a real sense of musicality in their performance.

Delius was represented by three Part Songs – “To be sung of a Summer Night” “Midsummer Song” and rather a tongue in cheek piece “The splendour falls on castle walls” – in which, the gentlemen were required to reproduce the sound of horns!

Piers Maxim played a delightful piano solo by Grainger– “Blithe Bells” – which he described as: “A free ramble based on Bach’s Sheep may safely graze”. This was an excellent performance!

Two Madrigals by Howells “In youth” and “Before me” were confidently performed with clear diction, coupled with carefully gradated contrasts of tempi and dynamics.

Holst’s rather mystical Four “Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda” for female voices were accompanied by harpist, Glenda Allaway.  The interpolation of voices and harp produced some lovely moments – ‘Hymn to the Waters’ fast and bright, ‘Hymn to Vena’ sustained and mysterious and ‘Hymn of the travellers’ creating a mellifluous, Eastern atmosphere. The gentlemen, superbly accompanied by pianist Matthew Kelley, performed the dramatic “Ballad of little Musgrave” by Britten. Overlooking the rather unusual nature of the text, this proved to be a piece well sung and, at times, reminiscent of all the sensitivity and power of a Welsh male voice choir.

The brilliant young harpist, Glenda Allaway, played a stunning solo “Watching the wheat”.  In the style of a Fantasia on this lovely Welsh folk song, the listeners were enthralled by the sheer magical brilliance and artistry of the performer. This was a real highlight of the evening.

What better way to round off the evening than with “Four Lullabies for the girls” by Piers Maxim and consummately accompanied by Matthew Kelley. The four girls, Amelia, Abigail, Jemima and Florence, (Piers’ children), were there to hear their father’s beautiful sound picture of them. These miniatures were skilfully crafted and sung with utmost sensitivity. The perfect end to a lovely concert.

James Morgan