Dartington Community Choir with Devon Baroque at the Great Hall (review)

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Dartington Community Choir with Devon Baroque at the Great Hall

Leipzig could not have asked for a better birthday present than this concert in celebration of the German city’s illustrious Thomaskirche Choir, 800 years after its founding.

Dartington Community Choir’s well-deserved popularity does it no favours, however, when trying to accommodate well over 100 singers, five soloists, the orchestra of Devon Baroque, and a capacity audience in the glorious surroundings of the Great Hall.

This kind of logistical nightmare inevitably causes problems, and it was unfortunate, for example, that the theorbo continuo-player was totally inaudible throughout.

The choir was at its best in the two opening works by Schein and Kuhnau, with impressive attack, diction and tuning.

There were good moments in Bach’s Magnificat, too, though the faster contrapuntal choruses tended to need a short while to settle to their tempo.

Soprano Catherine Hamilton simply outshone her fellow-soloists, Sebastian Field (counter-tenor), Alexei Winter (tenor) and Paul Sheehan (bass), although Vicki Barnes-Moffatt deserves a special mention for standing in on the day for indisposed second-soprano Helen Ashby.

Overall credit, though, must go to conductor Jonathan Watts, whose insight and direction were crucial components in this historically-informed, varied and overall-enjoyable birthday bash, which was at least never short on sheer enthusiasm.


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