Nottingham Harmonic Choir

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A SEA SYMPHONY and SEA PICTURES 17th March 2017

Saturday 17th March 2017 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

Vaughan Williams
A Sea Symphony

Elgar Sea Pictures

Conductor Richard Laing

Soprano April Fredrick
Mezzo soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers
Bass-baritone Marcus Farnsworth

Review: Nottingham Post 19 March 2017
Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Albert Hall - review
Sunday, March 19, 2017 Nottingham Post
by William Ruff

Nottingham Harmonic Choir

Everyone knows that a lungful of sea spray does you good. So take a close look at anyone who was in the Albert Hall on Saturday at the Harmonic Choir's performance of Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony and you should see rosy cheeks and hear miraculously decongested nasal passages.

First impressions are vitally important in this great choral work. The opening fanfare has to seize you by the throat - and the Orchestra da Camera's brass section certainly made sure of that. And then there were the choir's explosive opening words ('Behold, the sea itself') suggesting this would be a performance in which words and music would be thrillingly combined.

That is no mean feat in a work whose weight of orchestral sound can often seem overwhelming. However, the balance between singers and instrumentalists was always carefully managed. The relatively modest size of the Orchestra da Camera was a blessing and conductor Richard Laing was clearly eager to allow Walt Whitman's words to shine through the musical texture.

The large forces mustered by the Harmonic Choir were impressively versatile, capable not only of hurling tidal waves of sound at the audience but also of crisp precision (as at the exhilarating end of the third movement), rhythmic accuracy and an ability to project a visionary sense of wonder. Soloists April Fredrick and Marcus Farnsworth had huge numbers to sing against, but their passion, energy and musical insight were never in doubt.

The five songs of Elgar's Sea Pictures formed a perfect companion piece in this maritime concert. Mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers was the eloquent soloist, attentive both to the music of the words as well as to the composer's ultra-precise musical directions. The poems Elgar set may be unfashionable but as songs they burst with rapture, yearning, tenderness and what it means to be human amid the wonders of nature.

Read more at http://www.nottinghampost.com/nottingham-harmonic-choir-sea...

 

Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle 12th November 2016

Saturday 12th November 2016 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle

Conductor Richard Laing
Piano Samantha Ward
Harmonium Anne Page

Soprano April Fredrick
Mezzo soprano Rhonda Browne
Tenor Charne Rochford
Bass-Baritone James Oldfield

Review: Nottingham Post 13 November 2016
Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Albert Hall - review
Sunday, March 13, 2016 Nottingham Post
by William Ruff

For conductor Richard Laing Saturday's performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle was much more than art for art's sake.

His opening address to the audience drew attention to one particular section of the Mass: 'Whenever the enemy presses in, God's strength comes to our aid' - allowing his listeners to decide for themselves what 'the enemy' meant in the context of recent events on both sides of the Atlantic.

The opening of the Kyrie immediately demonstrated the power of music to transcend a world of troubling unpredictability and to elevate its listeners to a higher plane of consciousness. It also shone a spotlight on the skills of a conductor who knows precisely how to mould the effects he wants. The Choir's crisp and dramatic way with words is now one of their hallmarks - as is their care with phrasing and dynamics. The Kyrie quickly reached a climax, the steps by which they reached it thrillingly built.

The Cum Sancto Spiritu was another example of just how responsive a large choir can be. The music danced along with ideas passed back and forth between different voices. They managed the sudden diminuendos and crescendos with pinpoint precision, ratcheting up the energy levels and intensifying the drama.

The soloists were at one with Richard Laing's vision of the work. Soprano April Fredrick, contralto Rhonda Browne, tenor Charne Rochford and baritone James Oldfield all had strong, stylish approaches to Rossini's highly operatic solo arias whilst blending beautifully in ensemble. Here was a solo quartet who reached out to the audience with their eyes as well as their voices.

The accompaniment was provided by Samantha Ward (piano) and Anne Page (harmonium) - unusual for a Mass on this scale not to have an orchestra, but their incisive and insightful playing proved that sometimes less is more.

 

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Carl Orff Carmina Burana & BBC Symphony Orchestra 12th March 2016

Saturday 12th March 2016 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Carl Orff Carmina Burana
Ibert Bacchanale
Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber

BBC Symphony Orchestra

conductor Gergely Madaras
soprano Sarah Tynan
tenor Sam Boden
baritone Marcus Farnsworth
Nottingham Harmonic Choir
Choristers of Southwell Minster

Saturday 12th March 2016 7.30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Review: Nottingham Post Sunday 13 March 2016
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Nottingham Harmonic Choir at Royal Concert Hall
Sunday, March 13, 2016 Nottingham Post
by William Ruff

Nottingham Harmonic Choir joined BBC Symphony Orchestra for a night at the Royal Concert Hall.
When Saturday's BBC Symphony Orchestra/Nottingham Harmonic concert is eventually broadcast on Radio 3, listeners should stand well back from their radios. If the engineers truly capture the experience in the Royal Concert Hall, the effect could well be explosive.

Faced with a forest of microphones, a choir could well be intimidated. But not the Harmonic. Orff's Carmina Burana may not be the world's most complex music, but it needs scrupulous attention to fine detail if it is to avoid sounding repetitive or superficial. The freshness which the Choir (together with the Choristers of Southwell Minster) brought to their roles made a concert warhorse seem like a frisky young colt. The singing was vividly characterful, irresistibly energetic and had the impact of a sonic tsunami. And more than anything the performance featured the best choral diction I have ever heard.

The soloists were splendid too. Tenor Samuel Boden played the comically poignant role of the strangled, roasted swan to perfection. Soprano Sarah Tynan was lyrically tender, unfazed by her stratospherically high notes. Baritone Marcus Farnsworth brought operatic relish to his multi-faceted part, equally convincing either celebrating the joys of spring or being an outrageously drunk cleric.

The Choir's own soprano quartet in 'Chramer, gip die varwe mir' also rose magnificently to the occasion, as did the semi-chorus in 'Veris leta facies'.

Conductor Gergely Madaras handled the vast choral and orchestral forces with great panache, digging out fine detail from Orff's score and adding some of his own (such as the raucously entertaining crowd noises in 'In Taberna').

He also brought energy and insight to the first half programme: Ibert's sensuously dynamic Bacchanale and Hindemith's Technicolor orchestral showpiece Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber. The BBC Symphony Orchestra, percussion well to the fore, was on sparkling robust form throughout.

Mozart Mass in C Minor & Mendelssohn Psalm 95 - 21st March 2015

Saturday 21st March 2015 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

Mozart Mass in C Minor
Mendelssohn Psalm 95: Kommt Laßt uns anbeten
Haydn Representation of Chaos
Beethoven Leonore No.3

Conductor Richard Laing
Soprano Katie Trethewey
Soprano April Fredrick
Tenor Matthew Minter
Baritone Angus McPhee

Review: Nottingham Post Sunday 22 March 2015
Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Albert Hall
Sunday, March 22, 2015 Nottingham Post
by William Ruff

The Nottingham Harmonic Choir may have invented a new art form. Conductor Richard Laing announced their cunning plan at the start of Saturday's concert. All three works in the programme's first half would be played without a pause - as if they were one single piece of music. Considering that three different composers were involved, this was quite a bold move.

So was it worth doing. Well, it certainly generated much discussion in the interval. Haydn's Representation of Chaos (from The Creation) gave way to Mendelssohn's setting of Psalm 95 which in turn led to Beethoven's Leonore No 3 Overture. So not a chronological progression but rather a philosophical one - from the dark materials of creation through religious worship to the final stage of human beings fulfilling their own destiny.

Richard Laing and the Orchestra da Camera created beautifully transparent textures in both the Haydn and the Beethoven. They were meticulous in their attention to detail and vividly projected the music's dramatic imagery, Beethoven�s stirring trumpet call seeming to arise from Haydn's Chaos.

The Harmonic Choir was on top form throughout the evening, producing a satisfyingly coherent and well-balanced sound, strong in all sections. The tonal brightness of much of their singing in the Mendelssohn Psalm setting was accompanied by a gleam in their eyes and much vocal energy. Words were consistently clear and there was a confidence about their projection that was often inspiring.

Mozart's C minor Mass was also given a highly dramatic performance, the Choir always responsive to the meaning of the text: brightly assertive, weightily reflective, thrillingly exultant, whatever the words suggested.

The four soloists (Katie Trethewey, April Fredrick, Matthew Minter and Angus McPhee) were of like mind and equally concerned about dramatic impact and telling detail. Together with orchestra, choir and conductor they created an innovative and uplifting programme.

Mendelssohn SYMPHONY No. 2 "LOBGESANG" - 12th February 2014

Wednesday 12th February 2014 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Nottingham Classics - Sinfonia ViVA
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 2

Sibelius Pélleas et Mélisande

Conductor Andrew Gourlay
Soprano Katherine Broderick
Soprano Lydia Teuscher
Tenor Andrew Staples

Review: Nottingham Post Wednesday 12 February 2014
Sinfonia Viva, Royal Concert Hall
Thursday, February 13, 2014 Nottingham Post
by William Ruff

Most of the audience gathered in the Concert Hall on Wednesday evening will never have heard a live performance of Mendelssohn's 2nd Symphony before and many may never again.

It hasn't had a good press over the years. "Turgid and overblown" is how one reference book describes it, so it's perhaps not surprising that orchestras and choirs have been put off staging it. So hats off to Sinfonia Viva and the Nottingham Harmonic Choir for their fearless sense of enterprise.

There is much to enjoy in this vast choral Lobgesang and perhaps after this outing the audience will wonder why they have been denied so long the work's great choruses and orchestral paeans of praise.

Sinfonia Viva, under conductor Andrew Gourlay, captured Mendelssohn's shamelessly upbeat opening movement, with its jaunty pomp and circumstance. Gourlay's skill was to lighten and brighten its tread, pacing the music so the ponderous never appeared.

The Harmonic Choir sang with power and robust enthusiasm their opening chorus and brought special poignancy to their singing of the chorale "Nun danket alle Gott". Soloists Katherine Broderick, Lydia Teuscher and Andrew Staples added tonal beauty and a natural feeling for words and phrasing to the mix.

In the concerts one other work Sinfonia Viva caught the steadily darkening atmosphere of Sibelius's Castle Gate piece (of Sky at Night fame) free from bombast, and reached a devastating, quiet intensity in the music for Mélisande 's death.

Elgar MUSIC MAKERS - 6th April 2013

Saturday 6th April 2013 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Nottingham Classics - The Hallé
ELGAR Music Makers

Sibelius The Bard & Symphony No 2

Conductor Sir Mark Elder
Mezzo soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers

After Hours: (approx. 9:30pm)
Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
Purcell Hear My Prayer
Rütti Requiem excerpts

Review: Nottingham Post Saturday 6 April 2013
Capturing spirit of Elgar proves special
Monday, April 08, 2013 Nottingham Post

It was enough to hear the opening bars of Elgar's The Music Makers to know that Saturday night's performance was going to be something special: an ideal marriage of composer, conductor and performers.

There is no finer Elgar conductor than Sir Mark Elder and both the Hallé and the Nottingham Harmonic Choir have his great choral works flowing in their veins.

The subtle shading of the choral sound was not only highly responsive to the letter of Elgar's careful scoring but also sensitively alive to its spirit.

Whether as 'dreamers of dreams' or as 'the movers and shakers of the world' the Choir left the audience in no doubt of music's power.

Standing in for an indisposed mezzo soloist was Catherine Wyn-Rogers, rich and firm of voice as well as urgently dramatic, especially in sections in which she had to battle against the full strength of choir and orchestra.

Sibelius' elegiac tone poem The Bard and his 2nd Symphony made up the rest of the programme, as Sir Mark demonstrated his unerring sense of the symphony's architecture.

Review of Concert - Saturday 6 April 2013
by Mike Wheeler Sound and Vision

The more I hear Elgar's The music makers the more unjustly underrated it seems. Agreed, there are moments that go off the boil somewhat, but they are only moments in a work that can be deeply poignant in the right hands.

Conductor Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra are unquestionably the right hands, and their performance with Nottingham Harmonic Choir conveyed a total belief in the piece. Impassioned playing in the orchestral introduction paved the way for a choral contribution whose sharply focused tone and unflagging energy were hugely impressive. Catherine Wyn-Rogers, standing in at short notice for an indisposed Christine Rice, made an impact right from her first entry, and led Elgar's tribute to August ('Nimrod') Jaeger at the words "But on one man's soul it hath lightened" in as profoundly moving a way as any I've heard.

The concert opened with Sibelius's The Bard. If ever a work illustrates the 'less is more' principle, this one surely does - rarely can so few notes have said so much. The music's spareness and concentration were gripping, and the brief moment in the spotlight for the trumpets and trombones at the end was spine-tingling.

Sibelius's Second Symphony is often described as his farewell to the big romantic symphony, but Mark Elder's conducting presented an unexpectedly modernist take on the work, pointing up the fact that it looks forward just as much as back. This was particularly true of the second movement, where the abrupt contrasts of mood were emphasised to the point where dislocation rather than continuity was the dominant tone. The first movement was purposeful, with a finely-judged control of pace; the third had terrific driving energy, offering, again. maximum contrast with the expansive treatment given the trio section.

In the finale Sibelius presented his interpreters with a huge interpretative challenge: after a sweeping transition into the finale the energy level drops almost to a standstill before having to generate even greater excitement a second time. Elder and the Hallé kept a firm grip on the current, maintaining and even surpassing the initial level of excitement the second time round.

Elgar DREAM OF GERONTIUS - 10th November 2012

Saturday 10th November 2012 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

ELGAR Dream of Gerontius

Peter Auty Tenor (Gerontius)
Heather Shipp Mezzo soprano (Angel)
James Oldfield Bass (Priest/Angel of the Agony)

Queens Park Sinfonia

Conductor - Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Review: Nottingham Post - Monday, November 12, 2012
By William Ruff

Filling their voices with tears for Elgar

Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius circulates around the veins and arteries of the Harmonic Choir. This sense of intimate knowledge was apparent at the first entry of the semi-chorus who, as friends of the dying man, pray for him at his bedside. Elgar urged his singers to avoid sounding churchy and instead to fill their voices with tears. This was exactly the effect on Saturday night. When the full choir was used, the fact that the singers were securely inside the music led to the overwhelming splendour of 'Praise to the Holiest' as well as the vivid drama of the demonic chorus. Conductor Richard Laing ensured that the choral sound was well-balanced and the words well-projected. Peter Auty sang the immensely difficult central role convincingly, almost reconciling the need to produce huge vocal energy whilst dying. Heather Shipp was nobly tender as the Angel, rich of voice and clearly projecting the narrative. James Oldfield had mixed fortunes, temporarily losing his way as the Priest (editors note - this was actually due to an audience member attempting to film the performance) but recovering to full authority as the Angel of Agony.

The young musicians of the Queen's Park Sinfonia provided not only sensitive accompaniment but also intensified the drama, the light and shade of the orchestral Introduction being particularly gripping.

Handel MESSIAH - 3rd December 2011

Saturday 3rd December 2011 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Lucy Hall Soprano
Juliette Pochin Mezzo soprano
Christopher Lemmings Tenor
Adrian Powter Bass-baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA
Organ - Michael Overbury

Conductor - Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Review: MESSIAH 3 Dec 2011
Nottingham Harmonic Choir,
Royal Concert Hall,
by Peter Palmer
Sunday, December 04, 2011 NottmPost

You should be hearing many different views on the highlights of this Messiah, because there was hardly a dull moment in Saturday's performance under Richard Laing.

Handel's famous Hallelujah chorus is the main contender, the voices climbing to dizzying heights. Never have I seen the first tier of the audience rise at the start with such alacrity. A Martian eavesdropping would have sworn we, too, had been rehearsed.
The performance gripped because the dramatic and reflective sections of the music were strongly contrasted. I need only mention the choral cries of "Glory to God" after the solo soprano's "There were shepherds abiding." The latter stages of Part One were memorable for lilting arias from Juliette Pochin and Lucy Hall, the Orchestra da Camera adding the radiant colours of an Old Master painting.

Though not the most Italianate of tenors, Christopher Lemmings gave pathos to his Part Two lament. The choruses were consistently incisive here. Adrian Powter's resonant "Why do the nations?" - taken at breakneck speed - cleared a path for the climactic revelation.

Soprano and orchestra combined beautifully in Part Three, and the lead violin, cello and harpsichord all had charisma. The choir sounded atmospheric in their hushed opening, electrifying in the crowning moments.

Having refreshed his Harmonic choristers, Richard Laing is now freshening up the repertoire. I urge you to catch their late show with fiddler Antje Weithaas at the Royal Concert Hall on March 28.

Handel ISRAEL IN EGYPT - 12th November 2011

Saturday 12th November 2011 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

HANDEL Israel in Egypt

Laurie Ashworth Soprano
James Laing Countertenor
James Geer Tenor

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA
Continuo - John Morehen

Conductor - Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Review:
Nottingham Harmonic Choir, Albert Hall,
by Grahame Whitehead
Sunday, November 13, 2011 from NottmPostEG

Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt is a masterpiece of choral composition, even if its subject - the Old Testament story of the Exodus - may have lost some of its immediate familiarity for today's audience.
Conductor Richard Laing clearly relished the intense drama of the score and he drew an outstanding performance from both the Harmonic Choir and the superb Orchestra da Camera. Singing and playing alike had such full-blooded conviction that the world of the Plagues and the Crossing of the Red Sea came vividly to life.

The choir's beautifully rounded sound, powerful, sensitive and always tightly disciplined, was well served by the acoustics of the hall. Particularly impressive throughout was the clarity of diction achieved by such a large choir. Handel's writing abounds in highly visual matching of music and text, and here, too, singers and orchestra excelled.
Their evocations of frogs, flies, locusts and hailstones captured the drama of the story, and there was a beautiful, brooding depiction of the 'darkness which might be felt'. This was an elemental world of natural and supernatural powers.
Principal soloists Laurie Ashworth (soprano), James Laing (countertenor) and James Geer (tenor) gave first-class performances which had power and lyrical intensity.

Prokofiev ALEXANDER NEVSKY - 12th March 2011

Saturday 12th March 2011 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall

PROKOFIEV
Alexander Nevsky
MUSSORGSKY
Pictures at an Exhibition
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV
Russian Easter Festival Overture

Halle
Conductor - Cristian Mandeal
Susan Bickley Mezzo soprano

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

This was a Nottingham Classics concert.

Review - Nottingham Evening Post

Hallé,
Royal Concert Hall Saturday 12 March 2011

The Hallé's all-Russian programme on Saturday night was not only a celebration of the musical might of huge combined orchestral and choral forces – but also of the wide array of individual talent on display. So it was good to see conductor Christian Mandeal bringing sections and individuals to their feet at the end to acknowledge the applause of a large and appreciative audience.

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (as orchestrated by Ravel) is one of the most vividly colourful orchestral showpieces. It ends with a bang in its depiction of the majestic Great Gate of Kiev (everyone playing at full steam with bells, gong, bass drum and cymbals to the fore) but also encompasses some intimate solos on the way. The Hallé's principal trumpet, tuba player and saxophonist are just a few of those who shone in a performance that brought each picture vividly to life.

This same attention to colour and atmosphere was evident elsewhere: in Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Festival Overture, for instance, with its powerfully evocative allusions to orthodox chant. But if you want full-powered Technicolor drama you would be hard-pressed to find a Russian work that packs a bigger punch than Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky. Here the full-throated and intensely committed contribution of the Nottingham Harmonic Choir (never intimidated by the enormous orchestra) was an essential i ngredient in a performance that conjured up images that thrilled and moved. Susan Bickley was the soprano soloist, eloquent and moving in her lament for her lost lover.

William Ruff

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS - 18th and 22nd December 2010

Saturday 18th December 2010 7:00pm
Wednesday 22nd December 2010 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Organ - John Morehen

Conductor - Richard Laing

THORESBY COLLIERY BAND

Conductor - Huw Thomas

REVIEW - Nottingham Evenign Post
24 December 2010

TAKE one brass band, add a choir, blend with an organ and enthusiastic audience and you have the perfect recipe for a Christmas carol concert.

Nottingham Harmonic Choir's family carol concert was a stirring affair enjoyed by a packed house.
The choir was in good voice throughout their selection of Christmas melodies, some old, some new.

A highlight was the premiere of a carol written by composer Tim Sutton, a former Nottingham High School student, in memory of Lewis Payne, a former treasurer and general secretary of the choir.

The Seven Joys featured the choir, led by Richard Laing, Thoresby Colliery Band, led by Huw Thomas, and the organ, played by John Morehen (who did much sterling work during the concert).
It was well received and looks sure to become an established part of the repertoire for capable choirs.

Thoresby Colliery proved themselves more than capable in their solo spots, mixing pop with swing and classical.
They showed their dexterity during Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla Overture, their power with Respighi's Pines of Rome and their control and subtlety during the lovely Canterbury Chorale by Jan van der Roost.

The children were invited on stage to sing Jingle Bells and each received a generous John Lewis voucher (the company sponsored the evening).

The finale was Gordon Langford's A Christmas Fantasy, featuring choir, band and organ on rousing form.

Richard Ellis

Handel MESSIAH - 4th December 2010

Saturday 4th December 2010 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Martene Grimson Soprano
Andrew Radley Countertenor
Richard Edgar-Wilson Tenor
Matthew Brook Bass-baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA
Organ - Philip White-Jones

Conductor - Richard Laing

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR

Due to illness, Countertenor Andrew Radley was replaced at short notice by Christopher Ainslie

Review: Monday 6 December 2010.
Nottingham Evening Post

VIEWS of Handel's Messiah have changed dramatically during the last 40 years - from the heavy, over-elaborate versions favoured by post-Victorians to a rediscovery of the scintillating celebration Handel devised.
Most of the biblical texts he drew on are meditative. Conductor Richard Laing allowed them all the time in the world to flower.
But when the music gathers pace, the results can be dazzling. I can't recall a Harmonic performance that has matched Saturday's for immediacy.

The clarity of diction helped greatly, and dynamic contrasts were incisively managed. Recitatives and arias intertwined with the choruses to supreme effect. The tenor soloist gripped from the outset (Comfort Ye).
Each famous air was sung with stylish conviction. And the evening scored a double whammy with the soprano's I Know that My Redeemer Liveth, straight after a Hallelujah Chorus that was an angelic frolic.
This benchmark Messiah was a triumph for Handel.

Peter Palmer

Jenkins REQUIEM / Bach MAGNIFICAT - 6th November 2010

Saturday 6th November 2010 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall

KARL JENKINS Requiem
J S BACH Magnificat

Elizabeth Hull Soprano
Nicola Semple Mezzo soprano
David Walder Tenor
Paul Charrier Bass
Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) Clive Bell

Queens Park Sinfonia
NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor - Richard Laing
Organ - Philip White-Jones

YouTube links:
Karl Jenkins discusing his Requiem
Opening of Bach's Magnificat
Onmes generationes Bach
Fecit potentiam Magnificat

Review: Monday 8 November 2010. Nottingham Evening Post

The Harmonic Choir under Richard Laing was joined by the excellent Queen's Park Sinfonia for a concert which brought together two very different choral masterpieces, J.S. Bach's joyful setting of the Magnificat, composed in 1723, and the highly original 2005 Requiem by Karl Jenkins, who has been called the world's most frequently performed living composer.
Together with soloists Elizabeth Hull, Nicola Semple, David Walder, Paul Charrier and Julie King, the Choir and Orchestra succeeded in bringing out the sense of gentle intimacy which Bach creates, as well as the feeling of overflowing happiness which suffuses the Biblical text. The Sinfonia's trumpeters excelled, and Philip White-Jones provided nimble accompaniment on the Concert Hall organ.
Jenkins has achieved huge popularity for his very individual way of combining different musical styles to create a distinctively accessible sound. His Requiem interweaves the traditional Latin text with five Japanese haikus on the theme of transience. It was immediately clear that the Choir loved this work with all its eloquent contrasts; there was beautiful control of texture and pace and a sense that the performers were opening up a meditative space for the listener. The haiku settings, with bamboo flute accompaniment, created a feeling of stillness.
Grahame Whitehead

Southwell 2010 - SUMMER SERENITY at SOUTHWELL - 22nd May 2010

Saturday 22nd May 2010 7:30pm
Southwell Minster

DURUFLE Motets:
Ubi caritas, Tota pulchra es, Tu es Petrus, Tantum Ergo
BARBER Agnus Dei
DURUFLE 'Prélude' from Suite, op.5
ELGAR Lux Aeterna
BRUCKNER Motets:
Tota Pulchra es Maria, Os Justi, Ave Maria
DURUFLE Requiem

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor - Richard Laing
Organ - Philip White-Jones

Review
Nottingham Evening Post - Tuesday 25 May 2010

It was almost as if Southwell was throwing down a challenge to the Harmonic Choir on Saturday: here's the perfect setting – now impress us with your singing. As the sun streamed through the West Window onto the cathedral's great pillars it did seem as if the singers would have a tough job to be as impressive as their surroundings. But as soon as the performance started any doubts vanished.

The choir has become a very responsive instrument in the hands of new conductor Richard Laing. In the concert's largely unaccompanied first half their alertness to direction was apparent in the way that they sang with their eyes as well as their mouths. Tuning was secure, phrasing subtle and control of dynamics often thrilling, producing not only sonic grandeur but also the gentlest pianissimos.

The programme was a masterpiece of planning. Motets by Duruflé and Bruckner plus Elgar's Lux Aeterna (set to his Nimrod music) and Barber's Agnus Dei (set to his famous Adagio) made up Part 1 and Duruflé's Requiem filled Part 2. The effect really was as serene as the choir's publicity claimed and in each jewel-like offering the Minster's architecture seemed an integral part of the musical experience.

The Requiem's two soloists were drawn from the ranks of the choir. Soprano Sarah May Morris brought touching purity and control to her performance of the Pie Jesu and Geoff Harbach was the eloquent baritone. The organ was played with distinction (notably in the Duruflé Prelude) by Philip White-Jones.

William Ruff

Puccini MESSA DI GLORIA / Rossini STABAT MATER - 20th March 2010

Saturday 20th March 2010 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

PUCCINI Messa di Gloria

ROSSINI Stabat Mater

Sally Harrison Soprano
Caryl Hughes Mezzo soprano
James Edwards Tenor
Simon Thorpe Baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor - Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post - Monday, March 22, 2010

A Casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the Harmonic Choir was staging an evening of opera at the city's Albert Hall on Saturday. Rossini and Puccini were the featured composers, and the music so vividly created by the Harmonic Choir, the Orchestra da Camera and guest singers sounded distinctly operatic. The management even posted ice-cream sellers in the auditorium during the interval.
When Rossini met a request to compose the text of the Stabat Mater, expressing the Virgin Mary's grief at the Cross, his personal style was firmly entrenched. And while departing from most people's idea of sacred music, his Stabat Mater powerfully reflects that grief.
The jaunty rhythms of No. 6 did appear a little out of place. But the ensuing Cavatina for solo mezzo, a dramatic "Inflammatus", a solo quartet and the magnificent finale all spoke directly to the heart.
In their a cappella movement, the voices of Sally Harrison, Caryl Hughes, James Edwards and Simon Thorpe blended admirably. Conductor Richard Laing drew persuasive performances from his choral singers and players.
Logically enough, Laing saved the crowning Gloria movement for the end of Puccini's early Messa di Gloria, rather than having it in its traditional place before the Credo. Here, the animated rhythm seemed fully in keeping with the words.
Edwards voiced his solo thanksgiving, Thorpe suffering and blessings to fine effect. Together with the ever responsive chorus, an orchestral horn supported them in a poignant Agnus Dei.

Peter Palmer

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS - 19th and 23rd December 2009

Saturday 19th December 2009 7:00pm
Wednesday 23nd December 2009 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

FAMILY CAROL CONCERTS

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Organ - John Morehen

Conductor - Richard Laing

THORESBY COLLIERY BAND

Conductors - Melvin White and Peter Collins

Review
Nottingham Evening Post

One of the many good things about the Harmonic Carol Concerts is the free programme which, when unfolded, seems to resemble an architectural plan. The Christmas hymns for audience, choir, organ and band stand like columns supporting an edifice, with symmetrically placed contributions from choir and band.

And in the centre of the design, as is right and proper, are the children. The concert would lose its heart if ever the children were denied their chance to sing Away in a Manger. They make a wonderful sight standing on the stage, two of them chosen to conduct, whilst the festively-bedecked choir and the band in their Santa hats accompany them.
As always, the programme was a clever mix of the traditional and familiar with the new and surprising. The choir, directed by Richard Laing, was stylish whatever they sang: movingly restrained in In the Bleak Midwinter and exuberant in the jazzy arrangement of Ding Dong Merrily. We even had kazoos in I Saw Three Ships.
The Thoresby Colliery Band, conducted by Melvin White, was on effervescent form in numbers such as The Shining Star and Riverdance. Their playing combined razor-sharp ensemble with a sense of fun and spontaneity.

William Ruff

Handel MESSIAH - 5th December 2009

Saturday 5th December 2009 7:00pm
Royal Concert Hall

HANDEL Messiah

Laura Mitchell Soprano
Lina Markeby Mezzo soprano
Daniel Joy Tenor
Simon Kirkbride Bass

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA
Organ - Philip White-Jones

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor - Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post

Under its new Director of Music, Richard Laing, and accompanied by Orchestra da Camera, the Harmonic Choir gave a memorable performance of Messiah which earned rapturous applause from the large audience. Handel's oratorio is, of course, a work of extraordinary genius; yet to bring such familiar music fully to life, as here, requires something special. From the first note to the last, these performers showed their deep respect for music they know inside out; and despite its familiarity they approached it with a freshness of vision and an attention to detail which brought out the emotional eloquence of the work, with its inspired fusion of Handel's music and Jennens' scriptural text. Every line seemed full of meaning and deeply felt.
Laing is, clearly, already perfectly attuned to his singers. The Chorus produced a well-balanced, beautifully integrated sound, responsive to every nuance. The careful control of dynamics was particularly noticeable. Orchestra da Camera played with great sensitivity, their crisp, clear textures and expressive style complementing the singing. There were impressive solo performances from soprano Laura Mitchell, mezzo Lina Markeby, tenor Daniel Joy and, standing in at short notice, bass-baritone Adrian Clark.

Grahame Whitehead

Mendelssohn ELIJAH - 14th November 2009

Saturday 14th November 2009 7:30pm
Albert Hall, Nottingham

MENDELSSOHN Elijah

Pumeza Matshikiza Soprano
Catherine Hopper Mezzo soprano
Benjamin Segal Tenor
George von Bergen Baritone

ORCHESTRA DA CAMERA

NOTTINGHAM HARMONIC CHOIR
Conductor - Richard Laing

Review
Nottingham Evening Post - Monday, November 16, 2009, 09:50

No Mendelssohn anniversary would be complete without his Elijah. Historians see the work as epitomising the Victorian oratorio, but it rarely sank to the level of a period piece under Richard Laing's dynamic direction. Original features range from the prophet's opening solo – before the orchestral overture! – to an exquisite blending of chorus and semi-chorus in Part Two. Whether embodying priests of Baal or voices of the people, the Harmonic choir brought a real feeling of urgency to the action. Reflective choruses were lucidly projected.
Of a fine young solo team, George von Bergen's ringing Elijah had fire in his belly, while everyone could take courage from Pumeza Matshikiza's soprano arias. Catherine Hopper excelled in virtue (Angel) and villainy (Jezebel). Benjamin Segal's lyrical tenor (Obadiah, Ahab) charmed the ear. In Part 1 of the story, Southwell Minster choirboy David Edmondson-Jones showed a nice sense of drama as look-out.
The Orchestra da Camera has never sounded better, underlining the score's many pictorial touches with zest. In Elijah's air It Is Enough, the cello solo was out of this world. The Albert Hall made an apt setting for Mendelssohn's Biblical musical.