Plymouth Philharmonic Choir at the Guildhall (review)

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Plymouth Philharmonic Choir at the Guildhall (review)

Preparing for a big concert is like getting ready for a World Cup football final – you’ve got to know what you’re up against, but mustn’t risk a last-minute injury during the warm-up.

Handel’s Dixit Dominus is no easy sing, and makes extreme demands on any choir.

From the outset it was clear Plymouth Philharmonic Choir had well-and-truly done their homework beforehand, but the extra rehearsal time, and especially on the day, just seemed to diminish, albeit slightly, the usual spontaneity and precision in attack at times on the night.

Schubert’s charming and eminently tuneful Mass in G, and Vivaldi’s well-known and highly exuberant Gloria, on the other hand, once more brought the very best from the singers, with some beautifully-shaped phrasing and finely-crafted dynamics, which have become the Phil’s hallmark under conductor Christopher Fletcher’s capable leadership.

Soprano Elizabeth Weisberg proved an especially accomplished soloist, with strong support from Siona Stockel (soprano), Richard Rowntree (tenor), and Andrew Mahon (bass), though mezzo-soprano Susanna Spicer did seem somewhat less at ease, particularly in the Handel.

With some outstanding orchestral accompaniment from the largely string orchestra, led with great assurance by Mary Eade, the Phil’s latest offering certainly didn’t disappoint its many fans, if the final ovation was anything to go by.


4 comments to Plymouth Philharmonic Choir at the Guildhall (review)

  • I wonder whe you got your information from Philip. The choir has an “extra” rehearsal before every concert and this term was no different from any other. We also always have an afternoon rehearsal on the day of the concert and this was the same as usual and in fact went very well. The Dixit Dominus was indeed a challenging work for the choir and it is thanks to the sheer dedication and hard work of everyone, but especially Christopher Fletcher, that it all came together so well.

  • Margaret Sparshott

    Thanks to Philip Buttall for his review of the Plymouth Philharmonic Choir concert. It is good to know that he appreciated and enjoyed the second half – both the Schubert and the Vivaldi were indeed a pleasure to sing.
    As a member of the choir, however, I wonder where he gets his information from? Dixit Dominus is indeed a testing and spirited work, and we in the choir worked hard during rehearsals (and many of us also use rehearsal tapes at home to get to know it better), but there were no extra rehearsals, or even extended rehearsal times, on the last day or before.
    I am sorry Mr. Buttall found our work ‘diminished’ – it may be a testing work (isn’t it good to be tested?), but it was also tremendously invigorating, unexpected, full of energy and life, and a joy to sing. Absolutely without any ‘extra rehearsal time, especially on the day’, as he seems to have been misinformed.

  • Wonderful to sing these inspiring pieces and glad they were well received :-) Looking forward to starting our new repertoire for the December concert

  • I genuinely respect Philips insightful reviews and have done so for some years as I consider myself a novice at passing judgement over classical performances (but I know what I like!). In my role as Press Officer for the Choir I always keep my ears open in the bar during the interval for unsolicited audience comments about each performance. This is what I overheard and wrote down after Dixit Dominus:
    “One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard”
    “A privilege to hear it”
    “One of the best things I’ve heard the choir sing”
    “The duet was fabulous”
    “Technically so difficult, yet so beautiful”
    “Absolutely beautiful”
    My own untrained ears concur with the above.

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