Concert celebrates 150 years of music
THE 150th anniversary of a choir is certainly something to celebrate.
Ashford Choral Society was fully justified in staging an anniversary concert to commemorate the landmark in Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday evening, led by 150 singers and with violinist Margot Rusmanis leading the orchestra.
The venue was selected as there is nowhere in Ashford suitable to accommodate an assembly of such large numbers.
Included were several key musicians from major London orchestras numbering about 70.
Conductor since 1970, Dr Mark Deller directed the performance with praiseworthy control, not an easy task with the acoustically wayward space of the cathedral.
Particularly apt for the occasion were two works by Elgar, born in 1857, the same year as the choir.
The Spirit Of England is a setting of Laurence Binyon’s moving First World War poems, encapsulating Elgar’s response to the horror and carnage of the time.
In contrast, the second work was the well-known orchestral serenade for strings in E minor, Op 20.
Vaughan Williams’s visionary short work for choir and orchestra, Toward The Unknown Region, is a set- ting of Walt Whitman, first performed by Ashford’s choir in 1987.
The major work and climax of the varied concert was a performance of William Walton’s stirring oratorio, Belshazzar’s Feast.
Distinguished solo singers who added lustre to the proceedings were baritone Benjamin Bevan (Belshazzar’s Feast) and internationally known soprano Lynne Dawson (The Spirit Of England).
All involved were acclaimed enthusiastically by the large audience, for a fitting performance for a very special celebration.
A feature on the choral society’s history will appear in next week’s Kentish Express.