TITLE: Huddersfield Singers
VENUE: St Paul’s Hall, HuddersfieldREVIEW: by William Marshall
AN era ended with this concert, at which Huddersfield Singers conductor Philip Honnor took his leave, after 23 years.
He has consistently shown his ability to shape a lively, rhythmic and clear choral sound from the Singers and this was most evident on Saturday night in what was probably the standout item, Mozart’s Missa Brevis. It was a warm, affectionate performance, with the team of soloists blending excellently with the choir and there were some very effective dynamics, especially in the Gloria.
Elsewhere, the music all belonged to the baroque – a Bach cantata – “Nimm was dein ist, unde gehe hin” – Handel’s anthem “My song shall be alway”, Purcell’s “My beloved spake” and, from the relatively obscure John Travers, the anthem “Ascribe unto the Lord”.
The last named was the most awkward performance of the night, having made a tentative start and losing its way at one point, although the entry of the chorus gave propulsion to the piece and the attractively restored string parts by Philip Honnor added a lively element.
There were professional and student singers among the soloists, one of whom, the tenor Charlie Tarrant, was a late substitute after illness struck the original invitee. The bass-baritone Robert O’Connell – a graduate of the University of Huddersfield – made an impact with his grave, sonorous style.
There were also plenty of solo opportunities for choir members, with the characterful alto of Pam Sykes and the fresh, rhythmic and accurate soprano of Catherine Rice being the most impressive.
A small, high calibre instrumental group assembled by the violinist Kenneth Mitchell made its mark throughout, not least in the violin obbiligatos of the Mozart and in a sizzling account of Vivaldi’s La Folia, taken at a heck of a lick.
Philip Honnor’s legacy as conductor of the Huddersfield Singers will include the fact that he devised artistically challenging, musically rewarding programmes, often featuring unusual repertoire and rediscoveries.
At a time of year when most concerts will revolve around a rather reductionist repertoire of festive favourites, the fact that the Singers and their conductor continue to offer serious but entertaining fare is cause for gratitude among the concert-going public and it is to be hoped that the choir’s new director will display a similar sense of enterprise.