Review: Baslow Choir, Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Holymoorside Choral Society, MusicWork Vocal Ensemble in gala concert

Andrew Marples
Andrew Marples

A capacity audience enjoyed a gala concert at Chesterfield’s historic Crooked Spire Church when four local choirs, all directed by Andrew Marples, performed during a memorable evening.

The event was part of Andrew’s celebrations for a milestone birthday earlier this year and featured Baslow Choir, Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Holymoorside Choral

Society and MusicWork Vocal Ensemble, with accompanists Carol Reid, Chris Flint and Ian Brackenbury.

Baslow Choir, opened the concert with Kyrie and Gloria from Mozart’s Coronation Mass for which they were joined by MusicWork. This piece was especially appropriate for the surroundings of the church and highlighted by Ian Brackenbury’s organ accompaniment.

They were then joined by their accompanist, Carol Reid, for Music All Powerful which had been written for the choir by their previous musical director, Michael Coe. The mood was then changed completely with performances of two traditional folk songs, The Ash Grove and Strawberry Fair in an arrangement by Goff Richards, which showed the choir’s attention to detail to great effect. The selection was completed with the well presented Cockles and Mussels, also arranged by Michael Coe, for unaccompanied voices.

MusicWork Vocal Ensemble’s seven a cappella singers performed with great aplomb in the first half of the concert. The clarity and quality of their voices was displayed to wonderful effect in the surroundings of the Crooked Spire and three varied items of 16th century music were well suited to their very distinctive style of singing.

Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society, together with their accompanist Chris Flint, are well known in the local area for their performances. Their selection included Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord and extracts from their next stage production The Yeomen of the Guard which all featured high quality solos and showed the society’s particular strengths to great advantage.

Their other choices were The Soldiers’ Chorus from Faust and two songs from the musical Kismet: Stranger in Paradise and This Is My Beloved. Their whole programme was delivered with great confidence, the high quality of their singing being highlighted by the marked changes in dynamics and mood which they achieved throughout their chosen programme.

All four choirs joined together as one in each half of the programme. Before the interval, Hubert Parry’s coronation anthem I was glad resounded

throughout the church and was performed to tremendous effect, enhanced by the organ accompaniment. This was followed by an arrangement of The Rhythm of Life where the vocal harmonies intertwined seamlessly building up to a powerful finale. The expert piano duet accompaniment from Carol Reid and Chris Flint added to the sense of fun encompassed in this particular piece.

Holymoorside Choral Society opened the second half with two contrasting but equally well known pieces. They began in lighter mood with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s It’s A Grand Night For Singing and followed this effectively with the unaccompanied Bourée for Bach, before singing Hugh Roberton’s White Waves On The Water.

The highlight of their performance was Wherever You Are, made popular by the Military Wives, which was sung sensitively and meaningfully and included a lovely soprano solo. Their programme finished with the ever popular Wind Beneath My Wings and with the flourish of Funiculi, Funicula as its finale.

MusicWork’s unique style lends itself well to a wide choice of music. Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via was in complete contrast to You Are The New Day and Love Is The Sweetest Thing and this talented vocal ensemble captivated the audience with their performance. Their rendition of You Are The New Day was a real highlight, expertly sung and with great feeling.

Andrew Marples is well known in the Chesterfield area for organising concerts on Saturday lunchtimes where he often performs piano solos and duets. In a surprise addition to the programme, he played Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude in a performance which received deserved applause from audience and choirs alike. He was then presented with a gift from the four choirs in recognition of his contribution over many years to all of them as their musical director.

The finale of the evening featured the massed choirs performing a choral arrangement of When The Saints Go Narching In, complete with audience participation and finished with the sound of 130 voices and the church organ in The Hallelujah Chorus. This was a fantastic end to an outstanding concert with many of the audience observing the age old tradition of standing throughout the piece.

In his introduction, the Rev. Patrick Coleman, vicar of Chesterfield, had described the concert as a cornucopia of music for North East Derbyshire - a view which was echoed by audience and choir members alike at the end of an uplifting and moving evening.