Saffron Walden's Choral Society since 1883
Patron: John Rutter | Music Director: Quintin Beer

Review of Faure Requiem and The Measure Of A Tree March 2022

Category: SWCS

Saffron Walden Choral Society: Saffron Hall 19 March 2022

Requiem Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Fantasia on Greensleeves Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

The Measure of a Tree Janet Wheeler (b 1957)

It is an immense achievement to have worked tirelessly for 30 years to engage and encourage local singers to reach such musical heights. This is the enduring legacy of Janet Wheeler, whose tenure as Musical Director of SWCS comes to an end. 

For her final concert Janet presented her latest composition, The Measure of a Tree. The crucial role of trees within the ecology of our planet is an intriguing subject on which to base a musical work. There are nine poems, the texts of which are full of imagery and are sometimes rather opaque. There is much to absorb on first hearing. Noted for their warm tone and accuracy, SWCS presented the imitative lines and rhythmical twists with assurance and clarity. Three solo sections lightened the mood - Squirrel, Hedgehog and Woodpecker - with flecks of orchestral colour. Edmund Saddington (baritone) relished the vocal challenges, andGrace Davidson (soprano) controlled the angular lines with ease. In the final chorus, Heartwood, a tree confronts a tree-feller. The imaginative setting of this poem brought to an end this ambitious and thought-provoking work. 

For all its apparent simplicity, Fauré’s Requiem is deceptively tricky. Flowing speeds were wisely adopted, assisting intonation and exposed vocal lines. Dramatic moments made an impact despite some imbalance between voices and instruments. Ms Davidson presented the Pie Jesu coolly and calmly; Mr Saddington’scontribution required more tonal heft.

Chameleon Arts Orchestra provided secureaccompaniment in the choral works. They gave a sensitive account of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves, played without a conductor.

The concert began with a beautiful setting of a Ukrainian prayer, in which the audience was encouraged to take part. A moving start to a poignant evening.

Bill Ives

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