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Reviews

JUBILEE CONCERT - 2012

Review by Donald Hollins of the concert performed in St James' Church, Dursley on 24th March 2012
This proved to be both an interesting and extremely successful concert by a chamber choir that continues to maintain a commendable standard of performance. Several of the pieces were extremely challenging and had obviously required a lot of work in rehearsal. There was considerable variety and the notes for the programme were full and most useful. Vaughan Williams' "O Clap Your Hands" opened the concert appropriately, and it continued with four of Hubert Parry's moving "Songs of Farewell". At the end of Henry Vaughan's "My Soul, There is a Country" the exultation was well conveyed with splendid quality of sound which, in fact, was the case throughout the concert.

We were then introduced to the star of the evening in the form of mezzo soprano Fiona Mackay, who on the evidence of her contribution to this concert has a distinguished career ahead of her. This was evident with her account of Schubert's Ave Maria which she sang with easy resonance and confidence. A major highlight of the evening was Aaron Copland's remarkable "In the Beginning" to which Fiona Mackay contributed in no small measure. Copland had a broad range, even writing the music for Hollywood films, ballet and opera, all in total contrast to this fascinating work which throughout has Copland's unique brush. It demands a lot from both singers and listeners but the effort is more than worthwhile.

Conductor David Moss is also a talented composer as we heard with "Three Psalm Fragments", the third having been composed especially for Fiona Mackay and which she and choir sang beautifully. Her final contribution to the evening was in Bruckner. "Tota Pulchra es Maria" is one of Four Motets and is most moving with its "Ora Pro Nobis" and those deep, deep notes! More melody then with "Locus Iste".

Nigel Davies, who accompanied expertly on the organ throughout, gave a suitably rumbustious account of the "Agitato" from one of Rheinburger's organ sonatas.

Four (vaguely) Elizabethan Songs included Vaughan Williams' well known arrangement of "Greensleeves", "Over Hill, Over Dale" and "The Cloud-Capp'd Towers", the poetry of the words ever prominent. Charles Wood's arrangement of "Full Fathom Five as also a delight. The concert ended with Parry's "I was Glad"; so familiar, so frequently heard heat always so stirring.

CHRISTMAS 2011 - NORTH NIBLEY

Review by Donald Hollins
The Oriana Singers had a rival in the Church! Next to them was a colossal, decorated Christmas Tree covered in lights. There were plenty of highlights in the programme devised by conductor David Moss, not least his opening 'Nova! Nova!'

The Epiphany anthem 'The Three Kings' by Peter Cornelius I enjoyed very much, especially Peter Kirvan's sympathetic solo.

A major highlight of this pleasant programme was Buxtehude's extended cantata, 'The Newborn Babe'. It was beautifully sung and the composer's reputation as a master of melody was much in evidence. Ian Higginson accompanied ably on the piano but we missed the organ.

A palpable hit was Sargent's 'Cowboy Carol' which is always great fun to listen to. Following it was the responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas 'O Magnum Mysterium' by Victoria, and this sublime music proved as moving as ever. The choir's good diction enabled those words by Christina Rossetti, 'In the Bleak Midwinter' to be clearly heard.

MADRIGALS AT OZLEWORTH - 2011

On Sunday 17th July Oriana were invited to sing during the Open Garden event at Ozleworth, Gloucestershire, in aid of the R.N.L.I.
As our musical director, David Moss said: There is nothing nicer than singing madrigals in an English country garden on a typical summers day. How many other choirs can claim to have sung around a plunge pool and in a greenhouse in one afternoon? 

Actually, we were lucky - the forecast had been for heavy rain all afternoon, but it only rained once (so we retreated to the greenhouse, from where,we were told the sound escaped nicely through the top windows into the garden). The plunge pool has amazing acoustics so is a favourite place for singing. The opening in the roof over the pool seems to propel the sound out into the surrounding garden.

Everyone enjoyed the day and the reward was a splendid cream tea afterwards.

CHRISTMAS - 2008

The lovely church of St Martin at North Nibley and the 18th century mansion of Stouts Hill were the two venues for the Oriana Singers' two Christmas concerts under conductor/arranger David Moss.

For the most part the two programmes were similar in content but at St Martin's we heard two pieces by Monteverdi and Schubert. The former's moving Ave Maris Stella from the 1610 vespers was beautifully sung and included a notable tenor contribution from Peter Kirvan.

Schubert's Magnificat, composed at the tender age of 17 was new to me and was a valuable retrieval by David Moss. It is quite demanding to sing but the choir of about 20 voices met the challenges successfully as did pianist Ian Higginson. The quality of sound is ever improving and the quartet did well with Mary Moss's soprano soaring to great effect.

The concert had opened with the lovely Ecce Concipies by Jacob Handl . " Behold you shall Conceive" was an appropriate beginning.

Otherwise the two concerts were similar even down to the delicious hot mulled wine and mince pies. There was also a raffle at Stouts Hill as that concert was in aid of the excellent Cotswold Vale Talking Newspaper.

At both concerts the audiences were invited to sing a few carols to which they responded enthusiastically. But it was good to hear the choir singing less well known (and better) accompaniments to Away in a Manger and While Shepherds Watched..."

Among a number of shorter pieces I particularly enjoyed was the softly sung Sing Lullaby, the sublime In Dulci Jubilo, the joyful May Blossom and The Christmas Tree by Cornelius.

Interspersed in both concerts were extremely well delivered seasonal readings.

Finally, the Oriana Singers wished us happiness and joy in the New Year with the Wassail Song and for good measure they “Wished us a Merry Christmas and (again) a Happy New Year”.