Choral society shared a lovely summer event in Axminster

PUBLISHED: 17:00 24 June 2017

Peter Parshall.

Peter Parshall.


What a difference an evening of music can make to a rainy day, writes Sydie Bones.

Saturday, June 10, was one such evening, when choir, organ and piano were interwoven in a concert of sheer delight, whisking many a grey head in the audience back to their young years, when British folk songs featured prominently in ‘community singing’.

John Rutter’s cycle of folk song settings A Sprig of Thyme formed the backbone of the programme and included many favourites.

Rutter was passionate about our shared musical culture.

In this song cycle, he retained the traditional tunes, varying the arrangements between soloists and choir, unison and part-singing, in single or mixed voices.

The programme was almost wholly English music.

Elgar’s songs from The Bavarian Highlands opened the performance and an organ arrangement of his Chanson de Matin followed.

Six of Rutter’s folk songs completed the first half, lovely singing from the sopranos in I Know Where I’m Going and an impressive rendering by the men of Down in the Sally Gardens with a commendable contribution from the three valiant tenors.

More delights were to follow.

After Peter Lea-Cox had introduced his setting of Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden, explaining how the style of the music reflected the Edwardian era in which the poem was written, two flat-capped country gentlemen took centre stage and delighted the audience with a brilliant duet.

They were just recognisable as conductor and organist Peter Parshall and Cam Bowie, a bass from the back-row.

This set the tone for a hugely enjoyable second half.

Delius’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, played by Peter Parshall on the organ, kept the attention of the youngest members of the audience, waiting to hear the call of the cuckoo.

Two sopranos stepped forward to perform solos, Moira Mackay to sing Ned Roram’s Early in the Morning and Marjie Dorling with Vaughan-Williams’ Linden Lea, both sung with sensitive expression.

Peter Lea-Cox stood up again, this time to introduce his mother-in-law, Jean Humphreys, who joined him to play an exuberant piano duet, Galop de Concert.

The applause was thunderous and well deserved.

The choir brought the concert to a close with a further selection of Rutter’s folk songs.

The final one, The Keel Row, displayed all the musical skills of the performers – a brilliant arrangement demanding playing and singing of the highest quality.

Congratulations go to all performers – they had given the audience a very happy summer evening.

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