The two choirs, The Athenaeum Singers and Minster School Choir, joined forces to present a Spirit of Summer concert at The Minster Church, Warminster.
The Singers’ director, Jessi Pywell, had decided to push the boat out and lead her singers into unchartered waters with a performance of Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo, a light-hearted telling of the Biblical story of the ark.
Abigail Gostick (mezzo soprano) sang largely as a narrator. She was an exceptional storyteller, with a beautiful well-rounded yet gentle and reassuring voice, never forcing the sound and singing with true musicianship. The performance included some small solo roles for choir members and these were all sung exceedingly well.
The advantage of a good adult choir singing this music is that we could experience the secure harmony and detail that might sometimes be missed.We also enjoyed well-shaped phrases and well- observed dynamics.
The women particularly entered into the spirit of the music, but by the final chorus, as the animals walked onto dry land ‘by two, by two, by two, by two…’ even the basses had something approaching a spring in their step. The children joined in a few of the numbers. It would have been lovely to have had more of them as they injected additional energy, particularly through their diction, but The Singers gave a committed performance and, for the first time in their history, we had a semi-staged performance, with umbrellas, rain hats and, on one occasion, a pair of bloomers.
The Minster School Choir, directed by Stuart Telling, with their headteacher Lisa Tudor at the piano, sang five songs. There were many high points such as their sheer joy in This Little Light of Mine, the wistful soloist in Castle on a Cloud, real feeling for the text in Tomorrow and lovely solo and small ensemble work in One Little Voice. Each child was a great ambassador for the school.
The evening finished with John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit, jazzy arrangements of spirituals which again required the Athenaeum Singers to ‘loosen up’. Some visibly rose to the challenge, gently moving to the music. There were moments of beautiful calm and stillness in Steal Away and heavenly ‘oo’ sounds in I Got a Robe. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child was appropriately soulful and the Singers lifted off at times in Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit.
The haunting Deep River contrasted with the final rousing When the Saints, where the children joined forces with the adults and raced on to a heavenly conclusion.
Again Abigail Gostick sang beautifully through these spirituals and the piano accompaniment from Tim Primrose was impeccable, always stylish and giving the singers the support they needed.