AFTER 26 years at the helm that doyen of choirmasters Ken Rothery is still presenting Holmfirth Choral as a well balanced ensemble with a neatly polished surface to their tone and good diction – that sadly neglected craft among choirs these days.
His celebration of Elgar’s 150th birthday was a more fascinating programme than many of the grander tribute concerts this year.
It included Elgar’s Sea Pictures song cycle, his most original work, and the choral ode The Music Makers, possibly his least satisfactory.
Mezzo-soprano soloist Margaret McDonald sang the five Sea Pictures with calculated drama – In Haven was particularly pensive and Sabbath Morning at Sea burst to an electrifying climax at “He shall assist me to look higher”.
She and the choir gave a convincing performance of The Music Makers which, for once, did not seem too long or too monochromatic.
Rothery also included Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, acknowledging Elgar’s harmonic debt to the German master, but here the choir were a little too serious for these delicious bagatelles.
Piano accompanists Geoffrey Lockwood and Jean Collison sustained the evening with assured support.