Testing time for capable choir

Reporter: MW
Date published: 23 November 2010

Oldham Choral Society, Middleton Arena
Oldham Choral Society chose two substantial and very different works for its latest concert.

The first half was devoted to Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man”, commissioned for the millennium by The Royal Armouries. It is an anti-war piece based on the Latin Mass and dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis.

The choir was accompanied by the East Lancs Sinfonia, which only lacked two or three first violins to be a really well-balanced ensemble.

A few items were incorporated into the work to provide a flavour of the Second World War and add religious sentiment. Nick Hardy (tenor) was splendid in Handel’s “Sound an Alarm” and Charlotte Carter, a very late replacement on the night, sang Handel’s “How Beautiful are the Feet of Them that Preach the Gospel of Peace” with great delicacy.

The choir was well disciplined, looked splendid and responded well to Nigel Wilkinson’s robust direction. The backdrop of war images enhanced the performance.

In contrast to this serious and solemn work, the second half was given over to a complete performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.

Charlotte Carter and Nick Hardy were joined by the considerable presence of baritone Phillip Joll.

Orff deliberately wrote fiendishly high notes for the soloists in order to generate tension during the more profane passages of the work. This came off spectacularly well.

The orchestra coped satisfactorily with the tricky rhythms and other effects required. The percussion and brass sections particularly were well up to their task.

The choir is very capable and the music was well within their compass. I only wish they had looked a little less serious, as though they were relishing the risky verses and the double entendres.

As is usual nowadays with mixed choirs, the men were quite outnumbered. A few more would just give the choir the balance it so slightly lacks.

Nevertheless this was a very enjoyable evening.