Crowning Glory – Music to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee


After the hiatus of Covid which has decimated the performing arts for so, as part of the year’s celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, LCS stormed back into form with an excellent evening of carefully chosen, well balanced and convincingly performed music to the delight of a considerable and appreciative audience in the lovely setting and acoustic of Louth’s St James’s church. 

The choir, somewhat smaller in number than before the pandemic, was tighter and even better balanced and very ably accompanied by Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra and organist Harry Jaques under the clear and encouraging direction of resident director, Allan Smith. 

A confident and flourishing Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ set a flying start, raising a few goosebumps, I’ll warrant, amongst audience and performers. 

Then into Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’, introducing the evening’s four guest soloists, Danni O’Neill, soprano; Amy Payne, mezzo; Philip Leech, tenor; and Will Sims, bass.  They blended well, with each other and in the various combinations with the chorus, continuo and orchestra.  The chorus was tight and light, the music crisp and glorious.  The large scale sections such as the Gloria and Credo demonstrated excellent control and constraint of the forces but with a musical lightness and tasteful expression.  I particularly appreciated the musical sensitivity in the Benedictus and final Agnus Dei. 

An exuberant orchestral interlude with Handel’s grin-inducing ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ granted opportunity for silent toe and finger tapping, leading us into two little gems for choir and organ, with Harry Jaques moving to the large and magnificent pipe organ for Judith Weir’s musically demanding ‘I love all beauteous things’ and the Royal School of Church Music commissioned ‘In our service’ Platinum Jubilee celebration by Thomas Hewitt Jones.  These were both tricky, new pieces which the chorus had been taught well and displayed confident competence in tackling; organist Harry breezed through his very difficult accompaniments with accomplished ease!  (We all wish him well as he makes the move to Guildhall in London to now take up vocal studies.) 

After a well-earned and enjoyable interval, Allan reassembled his troops for a light, frothy and delightful performance of Vivaldi’s ever popular ‘Gloria’; in many ways it demonstrates the challenges constantly faced by any conductor of such well known works with a good quality amateur choir, professional soloists and instrumentalists, and an informed audience.  The plight of the god Janus, facing both back to the old year yet forward to the new at the start of the month bearing his name is simple by comparison. The conductor has to assess the sounds just made whilst controlling those presently produced and predict the immediate and longer term musical needs almost instantly; but he also has to continuously monitor the state of his singers and other performers, adjust according to changes of temperature, humidity, acoustic, energy levels, lighting conditions etc. whilst also keeping in touch with the audience behind him and feeling their responses to the ongoing musical output, all watched by a thousand eyes!  It is no surprise that it is an exhausting process and no surprise to those of us who know him that Allan rises to the challenges and revels in the mastery of them. 

As he certainly did with the wonderful Vivaldi.  The well judged tempi for the Gloria and the Et in Terra Pax led into the playful duet for soprano and mezzo soloists, well matched even to their use of vibrato, and the chorus’s Gratias and Propter magnam smoothly into the soprano soloist’s Domine Deus, with beautifully supporting and balanced continuo playing, as was the case in the mezzo and chorus’s following movements. 

The culminating fugal Cum Sancto Spiritu chorus, measured, confident and secure complemented and completed the work splendidly. 

As did the evening’s special bonus, a world premier of LCS’s commissioned work by the redoubtable Owain Park , a setting of the lovely Gaelic Blessing, which it certainly was to all, performers and audience alike. 

A totally splendid evening’s music, a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a return to performance with a Royal Flourish. 

Welcome back, Louth Choral Society!  PH