Exciting and innovative

Winter Words – Louth Choral Society continued its innovative year of concerts with a programme titled ‘Winter Words’ on Sunday 24th November in St James’s Church, Louth marking anniversaries on the previous Friday of 50 years since the Assassination of President F Kennedy and 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten.

The concert started with the Herbert Howells unaccompanied choral piece ‘Take him, earth for cherishing’ commissioned for and first performed exactly one year after Kennedy’s assassination. This challenging work with its complex rhythmic harmonies and interlocking themes ending in 8 parts, was beautifully interpreted by the choir with all sections in fine form.

Tenor, Mark Wilde, ended the first half with a masterful performance of Britten’s song cycle ‘Winter Words’, which uses the texts of 8 Thomas Hardy’s poems. Together with accompanist Steven Billinger, the audience was treated to clearly articulated and effortlessly poised singing and enhanced by sensitive and characterised accompaniment which included representations of trains and birds. During the story telling in ‘The Choirmaster’s Burial’ a pin could have been heard to drop.

Benjamin Britten’s Cantata ‘Saint Nicolas’ formed the second half of the evening featuring in addition to the choir and Mark Wilde, members of the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, Steven Billinger and David Parker piano duet, Anthony Pinel organ, a ‘Gallery Choir’ comprising sopranos and altos from Huddersfield University Music Department and three young trebles, Owen du Bedat, Roy Hilson and Keiran Seymour.

The story of Saint Nicholas’s life was effectively portrayed and I enjoyed the haunting violin solo at the start, the transformation from the boy to the adult singing the words ‘God be Glorified’, the pure tone of Huddersfield students literally singing from a galleried stage position above the choir, the entry of the three young trebles as the ‘pickled boys’ and above all the excellent solos, accompaniment and choral singing throughout.

The 2013 Louth Choral Society season has been exciting and innovative and is shortly to end with the traditional ‘Sing Noël’ concert on Saturday 21st December again in St James’s Church, Louth. They are to be congratulated on bringing such a varied programme ranging from the popular repertoire to new works in Patrick Hawes’s ‘Song of Songs’ and the rarely performed Winter Words concert programme which stretches choirs by taking them into less familiar music genre. I look forward to the 2014 season starting with Handel’s ‘Judas Maccabeus’ on Sunday April 13th.

John Smith, 24 November 2013

Review: Winter Words, Louth Choral Society at St James’ Church in Louth

By Trevor Ekins Grimsby Telegraph 26 November 2013

This concert offered a musical reflection upon two men connected by a single date, November 22, the centennial of a birth and the 50th anniversary of an assassination.

The link between Benjamin Britten and John F Kennedy, one a composer and the other a politician, in some respects embraces the circle of life.

Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing, composed by Herbert Howells for a memorial service in Washington on the first anniversary of Kennedy’s death, ensured a powerful and emotive opening to this concert.

Based upon the translation of a fourth century poem, it is a demanding and challenging composition sung a cappella, yet Louth Choral Society, under their musical director Martin Pickering, did not falter.

Winter Words offered Britten’s musical setting of eight poems by Thomas Hardy.

Mark Wilde (tenor) sang these with perfect enunciation and great sensitivity while Steven Billinger’s piano accompaniment provided a sense of atmosphere, for example, the illusion of a pounding steam train during Midnight On The Great Western.

Britten’s cantata, St Nicholas, explores the man who was Bishop of Myra and the myths and legends that evolved around the person we think of as Santa Claus.

An impressive array of guests accompanied Louth Choral Society in this commanding performance. They included Mark Wilde, Steven Billinger, members of the Gallery Choir from the University Of Huddersfield, a trio of choristers from Grimsby Minster and members of Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra.

Throughout the contrasting nine movements, they captured the drama, the lightness, the darkness and the celebration; listening was pure joy.