Church packed for performance

Battle Choral Society, St John’s, Pevensey Road, St Leonards. Saturday, December 1. Gounod Messe Solennelle Fauré Cantique de Jean Racine & Requiem. Review by Marrion Wells.

THE Church of St John the Evangelist is one of the largest in this area but it would have had to be at least a third larger to accommodate the audience for Battle Choral Society’s performance of music by French composers, even with the addition of an extra row of seating and the cloisters packed with the overflow.

Obviously the programme selected by director John Langridge had wide appeal for alongside familiar faces in the audience were a considerable number of most welcome newcomers.

All appeared completely absorbed from the very first notes of the 30 members of the all-professional orchestra, led by Pam Beament,

in Gounod’s setting of the communion service, the Messe Solennelle.

Under John’s dynamic direction the 100-strong choir, soloists soprano Grace Constable, tenor Gary Marriott and bass Michael White plus the fine support from Nigel Howard on the organ and the delicate tones of the harp of Anna Wynne ensured this was indeed a feast of sound.

Half a century later, in 1865 the first performance of a choral work by a 20-year-old French student Gabriel Fauré, the Cantique de Jean Racine heralded a lifetime of composition in almost every aspect of the musical spectrum.

On Saturday this served as a prologue to his Requiem, first performed three decades later.

Composed at various periods from 1877 to 1899 it did not achieve major popularity until after the Second World War, thanks largely to the influence and interest of Nadia Boulanger, the French composer/pianiste and noted teacher, influencing numerous American composers of the post-war period.

This, possibly the most familiar of Fauré’s major works, in seven contrasting movements ending with his vision of Paradise, gave the choir and orchestra further opportunities to reveal their expertise, the audience’s total appreciation being shown by prolonged applause.

------------------------------

Opera South East will be bringing its upbeat, jazzy, bright and brassy Christmas Cracker to Holy Trinity Church, Hastings on Sunday (December 9) at 7.30pm.

They are joined by Richard Eldridge on clarinet and piano and the Cinque Ports Brass. Tickets are £10 or £8 concessions and are available at Imagen Gallery, Claremont or on the door, under 16s go free.