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Vienna Spring


Mass in G - Schubert

Nelson Mass - Haydn


Edward Taylor

Vienna Spring
Lawrence Tomlinson

'Vienna Spring' - a fitting title for the Penrith Singers Concert in St. Andrews Church, Penrith, on 22nd April, with music of those great Viennese composers, Schubert and Haydn forming the Choir's programme. A programme of two contrasting halves. The first, of Schubert taking the audience, gently, into the Viennese idiom of his setting of the Mass, his Mass in G, a 'missa brevis'. As the excellent programme notes explain, in this form, the words are sung without any great elaboration, as in the opening, the unexpected quiet entry of the choir, 'Kyrie eleison', Lord have mercy. But then we enjoyed the full force entry in the Gloria. While much of the singing was in four part harmony, those Palm Sunday cries of 'Hosanna in excelsis' were characterised in a short fugue. In the 'Agnus dei', the soprano soloist, Rachel Little, had the lead, singing a beautiful solo line, with the Choir and bass soloist in an accompanying role, bringing Schubert's setting to a quiet close.

The organist accompanying the choir throughout the evening, was Harry Brown, Organ Scholar at Carlisle Cathedral, and shortly to begin studying at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Between the items of the Mass, to allow time for reflection, he played short pieces by Schubert, Haydn and Rheinberger, but then accompanied with great skill in response to the Choir's resident conductor, Edward Taylor, Assistant Organist at Carlisle Cathedral.

So to the second part of the programme, Haydn's Nelson Mass, composed on a much grander scale than the Schubert Mass. The organ accompaniment supplemented now with Alison and Sophie Richardson, trumpets, and Anthony Payne, timpani, joined with the Choir, at full fortissimo in the opening 'Kyrie', joined by Rachel Little, excelling in her florid solo passages. The 'Gloria' followed and was truly glorious! With the Choir in full voice, full of the joy of it, a highlight, with Haydn at his brightest, most tuneful, the contrapuntal close involving all four soloists, Rachel Little being joined by Audrey McKirdy (alto), Adam Crewe (tenor) and Jonathan Millican (bass).

Further highlights to follow: the Choir's sensitive four part singing of the Sanctus; the Soprano leading the Choir in the Benedictus; the excitement of Hosanna in excelsis. Finally, Audrey McKirdy opening the 'Agnus dei', and with soloists, Choir, organ, trumpets, and timpani, bring the Mass to a close.

The Choir of 52 singers excelled themselves all evening, the men, fewer in number, singing valiantly throughout! They performed for the first time on tiered staging, kindly provided by the Eden Singers. During the evening, Alison Blair, Chair of the Choir, took the opportunity to thank the Eden Singers. Rachel Little presented young members of the Choir, Bella Briggs, Wilfred Bazley and George Pattimore, with bursaries to assist with their musical tuition expenses.

The last word must go to the director of the evening's music, the conductor, Edward Taylor, giving a performance worthy of the 300th anniversary of St. Andrew's Church where Penrith Singers have rehearsed and performed over their 44 year history.

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