Sunday 19th March saw the largest-scale musical event of the year in the annual collaboration between the 75-strong School Choir and Cranleigh Choral Society. Together with the Merriman Concert orchestra, led by Kevin Weaver, and a quartet of superb soloists, over 170 performers took part. The three works gave an intentionally nautical flavour to the evening.
The music of the composer Sir Charles Stanford is more likely to be known by church choirs than concert audiences, but his saltily stirring five “Songs of the Fleet” combined rollicking rhythms, beautifully contrasted by moments of heartwarming and moving tenderness from the choirs and the superb baritone soloist, Timothy Dickinson. The first half also included Edward Elgar’s beautiful ‘Sea Pictures’. The mezzo-soprano Janet Shell is a hugely experienced Elgarian and delivered the songs with charm, poise and, when needed, great vocal power to soar over the orchestral accompaniment provided by the ever-excellent Merriman players.
One work formed the second half – Haydn’s ‘Missa in Angustiis’ (Mass for Troubled Times), long-nicknamed the ‘Nelson’ Mass due to its premiere coinciding with the routing of Napoleon’s invading forces by Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, relieving the ‘troubled times’ of the work’s composition.
The combined choirs and, slightly smaller orchestral forces, brought out the full drama and wide-ranging emotions of the mass texts, with moments of tender sorrow balanced by movements of sheer and uplifting joy from the massed musicians. They were joined once again by not only Tim Dickinson and Janet Shell, whom we had already met, but also by the exciting young tenor William Wallace and OC Hilary Cronin (soprano).
Hilary is well known to Cranleigh audiences as a former Music Scholar of the School and she absolutely shone in Haydn’s particularly demanding writing for the soprano soloist – a very exciting voice indeed. Sincere thanks are due to all performers and support crew and technicians, headed by Mark Jenkins who made such a musically uplifting evening possible.