(reviewed by Michael Haynes)
The Hexham Orpheus Choir (Conductor, Glenn Davis) presented a concert with a difference at Queen Elizabeth High School: “In Three Moods”. There was something for everyone in this choral triptych of Opera, Church and Lighter Music which showed the choir at its most versatile.
From the operatic repertoire we enjoyed not only rapturous Handel, profound Beethoven and exhilarating Mozart (stratospheric delights from the Soprano soloist Hannah Reynolds were a prominent feature of the evening), but also an impressive dip into even grander operas by Gounod, Puccini, Tchaikovsky and Mascagni. (Few Choral Societies would be able to split their ranks into separate groups, with items for Female Chorus, Male Chorus, and Semi-Chorus, all managed with great aplomb).
The talk of the interval was the choir’s rendition of “Bogoroditsye Dyevo” (essentially an “Ave Maria”) from the “Vespers” by Rachmaninov which stood out from the Sacred items for its immaculate pitch, polished diction, tight ensemble and real atmosphere. Hannah Reynolds’s moving interpretation of “O Salutaris Hostia” (Rossini) was exquisitely accompanied on the piano by Margaret Huntington. Bruckner and Franck favourites were also on the menu.
In a lighter vein we heard some super jazzy numbers, with swung quavers galore, and lots of do-bah-do-bah-ing; very difficult arrangements made to sound almost easy! Songs like “Blue Moon” and “Autumn Leaves” were ringing in the ears long after the concert had finished. The soprano soloist again provided the icing on the cake with “The Girl in 14g” by Jeanine Tesori (not a song to dabble with lightly). This required unbelievable virtuosity and skill – Hannah’s sonority and accent skillfully flipped from Broadway to Covent Garden in a performance that was as humorous as it was breathtaking. Truly amazing singing which, not surprisingly, brought the house down.
In addition to congratulating the Orpheus Choir for their committed, varied and enjoyable performance, special mention should be made of Margaret Huntington for taking on a dazzling array of orchestral accompaniments with great sensitivity, and to the conductor Glenn Davis for the huge imagination, versatility and flair he demonstrated in myriad ways.