A Festival of Britten - review of Britten Concert, 6 April 2013

A Festival of Britten

In the centenary year of Benjamin Britten’s birth, Sussex Chorus have celebrated the breadth and range of Britten’s works with a well-chosen and lovingly executed programme, from across the composer’s career on Saturday 6th April at Lancing College Chapel.  The choir were joined by talented young soloists Kat Carson and Alexandra Rogers, as well as perennials, Neil Jenkins and Stephen Doerr.  Alan Vincent conducted, while Terrence Allbright and John Walker accompanied on piano and organ respectively.

As we have come to expect, the choir performed with a quality of diction and reassurance of tone which the pieces deserved. In the first half of the programme, the choir performed the Te Deum from 1934, Jubilate from 1961 and Rejoice in the Lamb from 1943. The choir’s sound and balance were particularly strong in the Jubilate, where the whole lightness of feel and clarity of tone made for a magical experience. Kat Carson and Alexandra Rogers provided ample evidence of their rising stars with their “cat and mouse” in “Rejoice in the Lamb” with the deftness the piece’s humour was evident.  Neil Jenkins also sang three songs from Winter Words op.52, written in 1953. As ever Jenkins, accompanied by Allbright, provided a performance of subtlety and skill.  

In the second half, dominated by a towering rendition of “A Ceremony of Carols”, we heard the sheer brilliance of Terence Allbright come to the fore in the piano interlude, and some silky and affecting solo work from Carson and Rogers.  “That Yonge Child” and “Balulalow” in particular allowed the women to shine, while “In Freezing Winter Night” perfectly captured the chill in the air.  But a final note to Jenkins, who together with Kat Carson brought us “Abraham and Isaac”, Britten’s Canticle No 2, and the dramatic story of obedience to God – a wonderful amalgamation of tone and musical quality which developed some breath-taking moments.

Nicholas Moisewitsch