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Britten War Requiem   -   Woodbridge Choral Society
Snape   -   10th November 2018

picture by Edward Morgan

This concert could not have been better chosen nor more perfectly choreographed. Within a few hours of the centenary of the conclusion of World War One we witnessed a performance of a work by a Suffolk-born composer that, perhaps more than any other, has come to symbolise the horror at what happened between 1914 and 1918.

It was no surprise that Snape Maltings was full and an electric atmosphere prevailed. An augmented Woodbridge Choral Society provided the chorus, along with Woodbridge School Cantabile Choir. The orchestral forces were the Kingfisher Sinfonia and the Gainsborough Ensemble; both were on top form.

The opening Requiem Aeternam effectively suggested the mud-locked trenches before the clear tones of the children's voices lightened the mood. Edward Leach, in the first of a number of intelligent and poignant solos, gave Wilfred Owen's 'What passing bells' an astute blend of pity and anger.

The full forces of choir and orchestra were given their heads in the Dies Irae, the brass was incisive and the extended percussion section contributed memorably to the musical battlefield. Conductor Andrew Leach's clear baton held the various forces in secure control and Morgan Pearse made a deep impression in 'Bugles Sang'. In the Lacrymosa, soprano Claire Weston was touching in her characterisation of grief. The Cantabile Choir again distinguished itself at the opening of the Offertorium and the main choir gave a spirited and punchy account of the fugal 'Quam Olim Abrahae'.

The Agnus Dei is generally considered to be the emotional climax of the work and so it proved here. Conductor and performers combined sensitively to create the sense of sorrow and resignation in this deeply felt movement. The concluding Libera Me gave the chamber group a chance to be clearly heard and appreciated, nowhere more so than in the approach to 'Strange Meeting', where the sustained string chord was an arresting moment. The male soloists blended seamlessly for 'Let us sleep now' as Leach guided the music to its quiet close.

The emotional force of the performance and the evening was intense and tangible; a worthy tribute to the fallen.

Gareth Jones.