Sheffield Bach Choir performed a concert of English music this evening, with works by Holst, Warlock and Britten, as part of the University of Sheffield’s ‘A Boy Was Born’ festival.
The concert began with Holst’s Two Psalms (1912), with the choir on top form, producing an almost heavenly atmosphere in the wonderful setting of St Mark’s. They were accompanied by the National Festival Orchestra, which captivated an attentive audience with its rich string sounds.
To commemorate the centenary of Britten’s birth, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings followed. Tenor Stephen Liley demonstrated a thorough understanding of Britten’s score, delivering it with clear enjoyment. The performance of solo horn player, Jenny Cox, was particularly noteworthy – she produced a colourful and sensitive account.
Next was Peter Warlock’s neoclassical Capriol Suite: a twentieth-century take on sixteenth-century dances. Tonight’s conductor, Simon Lindley, delivered an exciting interpretation, choosing lively tempi. The orchestra responded vivaciously and enthusiastically.
After the interval was the final work, Britten’s St Nicolas cantata. Stephen Liley once again assumed the lead role with tremendous authority and panache.
Karim Dandas (Leeds Minster) took on the part of the young Nicolas, and Sam Meredith, Lewis Jones and William Renouccie (Wakefield Cathedral) joined him as the three pickled boys. All the young soloists showed what bright futures they have with some fine singing, as did the choristers of St John’s Church, Ranmoor.
Jonathan Gooing and Nigel Gyte displayed a virtuoso mastery of the fiendish four-hand piano part, and organist David Houlder accompanied magnificently. The audience clearly enjoyed themselves in their participation of the hymn singing.