Angmering Chorale mark the armistice centenary - review

REVIEW by Jim Hurdwell

Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 9:56 pm
Angmering Chorale - photo by David Rooke
Angmering Chorale - photo by David Rooke

There have been many events commemorating the World War 1 Armistice Centenary and it was appropriate that Angmering Chorale should contribute. On Saturday 24th November, in a packed Arundel Cathedral, their Autumn Concert featuring two magnificent choral works both entirely suited to this landmark occasion. We were greeted by a gentleman in WW1 military uniform similar to that worn by his Grandfather at the time and a nurse attired in appropriate costume for the period. The Chorale wore poppies signifying that we should remember the supreme sacrifice of so many souls at all times and not only on 11th November.

Joined once again by the Sinfonia of Arun (Leader Robin Morrish) with professional soloists Anita Watson (soprano) and Alexander Robin Baker (baritone), George Jones and the Chorale performed the lesser-known Requiem by Maurice Duruflé and The Armed Man which was composed by their Patron, Sir Karl Jenkins. Both works require large choral and orchestral participation and, with 100 of the former and 51 of the latter, we knew that magnificent sounds would be enjoyed in the Cathedral’s splendid surrounds.

I am not familiar with the Requiem but, from the opening Introit, knew that we were to hear something rather special – an interesting change from more staple fare. From beginning to end, there were wonderful sounds. The Chorale gave of their very best, splendidly complemented by two excellent vocal soloists and an orchestra which included sonorous brass and woodwind sections with the rich tones of a contra-bassoon. The Sanctus began and ended serenely but the middle section Hosanna in the Highest really had a “wow” factor with the combined forces resounding throughout the building. Our Paradise journey was divine and very greatly appreciated by the audience, many of whom, like me, will surely want to hear Duruflé’s masterpiece again soon.

The Armed Man, sub-titled a Mass for Peace, has become well-known and liked by many since its first performances in 2000. It combines texts from many sources including the traditional Latin Mass. It began simply with a solo piccolo and tenor drum marching down the aisle playing L’homme Armé, a 15th Century French Folk song.

The Chorale joined in with text, sung in French, decreeing that “Every man should arm himself with an iron coat of mail”. Our musical journey continued from calm beginnings through the battle to the ceasefire. All the traumas of the trenches were described in graphic detail with the frightening cries of “Charge” and enormous percussion and brass effects blending superbly with the choir’s loudest singing in the poignant choruses “Angry Flames” and “Torches”. After all this mayhem and horror we returned to a period of quiet reflection preceded by a superbly played off-stage Last Post and followed by a deeply reflective soprano solo mourning the death of a battle comrade. A plaintive cello solo introduced the lovely Benedictus and we were reminded, through Tennyson’s words, to “ring out” all the trials and tribulations of past conflicts.

The work concluded with an unaccompanied and beautifully sung hymn of peace taken from the Book of Revelation.

This concert was truly a fitting commemoration of the Centenary of the Armistice.

Jim Hurdwell