This was an unusual, quite adventurous concert, performed in a venue that is almost idyllic on a fine summer’s night.
The Singers, conducted by Alexander Douglas, dabbled in the chamber jazz stylings of Ward Swingle and fairly immersed themselves in the plangent choral writing of Morten Lauridsen. We also had saxophone music and some extraordinary percussion playing.
The concert was entitled Night and Day, and we duly had a full-on jazz performance of the Cole Porter song of that name, with guest instrumentalists Helena Summerfield and Jonathan Brigg soloing impressively on alto sax and piano respectively. The former also displayed her classical sax chops on Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and in a movement from a Sonata by Phil Woods that displayed some Coltrane-esque, modal jazz influences. There was also very impressive playing from the Singers’ piano accompanist Sue Ogden.
The principal guest artiste was Taneli Clarke, a University of Huddersfield student who is the current Kirklees Young Musician of the Year. Accomplished percussionists such as he are among the most extraordinary of musicians, for the sheer range of complex skills that they display on a wide range of instruments.
They can also introduce elements of theatre into their performances, and Taneli Clarke made a dramatic entrance, playing a djembe and singing powerfully in a piece named To the Gods of Rhythm, by the Serbian composer Zivkovic. There was also a snare drum solo, in Africa Hot by John Wooton, but in the other solo pieces we heard the marimba, played assertively with two mallets, as in Cangelosi’s White Knuckle Stroll, or richly and mysteriously with four mallets and all the accompanying harmonic potential in haunting numbers such as South Kolora by Alex Stopa. Throughout, there was virtuosity and a stage presence that suggested a bright future for this versatile and adventurous musician.
The Huddersfield Singers would appear to be the local choir for people who are ambitious to explore all sorts of repertoire and they did well in a number of arrangements by Ward Swingle, including his lightly jazzed-up versions of Elizabethan madrigals. Catherine Styring was a powerfully focussed soprano soloist in The Silver Swan, which also displayed an impressive surge of sound from the Singers.
This latent vocal power was something that conductor Alexander Douglas kept in reserve for most of the time, which made it all the more effective when, for example, there was a big crescendo in Sure on this Shining Night, one of the four Nocturnes by Lauridsen that were the centrepiece of the concert. Together, they made a substantial item in which the choir displayed good control and intonation.
There was attractive vocal variety in two numbers that featured only the high voices – the standards A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (featuring some quite complex chords sung well in tune) and a lively Fly Me to the Moon