Dvorak: Stabat Mater
On Sunday the 19th of May, at Capernwray Hall, Ian Jones [conductor] and the Eversley Choir continued their magnificent tradition of tackling difficult works with Stabat Mater by Antonin Dvorak.
The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides’ Overture, sometimes known as ‘Fingal’s Cave’. At first sight this seemed to be an odd choice but the powerful, sweeping emotion of the piece, beautifully played by the orchestra, was in fact a fitting opening to the profoundly emotional and anguished work by Dvorak.
Dvorak suffered the loss of three of his children, which deeply affected the devout Catholic and surely forms part of the inspiration for the piece.
The Latin text opens with the grieving Mary [Mater Dolorosa] standing at the foot of her son’s cross. This universal symbol of grieving motherhood allows even the non-religious to feel the pain and anguish of the loss of a child expressed in the great swoops and sweeps of the music.
The choir rose to the occasion magnificently, rendering the great emotion of the work: its Verdi-like lyricism, in the opening movement and again in the third and fourth, and its drama; its crescendos and diminuendos; its pathos and its anger. Their interpretation of the difficult Latin text was clearly deeply felt and incredibly moving.
The four soloists [Lucy Mellors, soprano; Sarah Jillian Cox, Mezzo-soprano; Jacob Clark, Tenor; Charles Murray, Bass] were in excellent voice, delivering powerful performances. Their voices worked well with and complemented each other and the interweaving with the chorus was very beautiful. Their heart-rending individual and collective performances were a highlight of the concert, drawing us all into the anguish and pathos of the text.
The invited orchestra played its part well and carried the changes in rhythm and mood in the music, especially in the last movement, very sensitively. The chorus ended the movement with a great burst of joy [Paradisi Gloria] and then the orchestra gradually led the movement to a serene close.
There was a long silence at the end of the performance, the audience still in thrall to the music and its emotional impact. Then came the loud and sustained applause, accompanied by smiling faces.
A triumph for all involved.
St.Matthew Passion, May 13th 2018
A beautiful day, outshone by a stunning performance.
Three choirs, two orchestras, amazing soloists, both choral and instrumental and a stout-hearted conductor holding it all together.
With eyes closed and seated near the open windows, you would be forgiven to think that you were experiencing an ‘open-air’ concert, with the smooth entry from the orchestra, a gentle breeze and the muted bleating of sheep.
The initial chorus showed brilliantly precise and confident entries. Similarly, the slightly more tricky ‘Is it I’ entries were well balanced and thoughtfully executed.
Changing the mood, enhanced by the sympathetic orchestra, the choir presented a moving chorus with wonderful articulation, clear diction and well-balanced harmonies.
As the first part draws to a close, the ‘Lightning’s and Thunders’ crashed into play with power and animation of voice and facial expression. It was clear that the choir were living in the moment and portrayed the necessary emotion to the audience. An effective structure of the two choirs standing/seated held the attention of the audience.
Interval conversations were buzzing with praise on every level. People were keen for the performance to resume.
The oboe, violin and cello players from each orchestra accompanied the soloists with similar passion and superb technique. What a shame they could not be applauded at the end of their respective solo.
There was a smooth transition of speed and a new ‘mood’ evolved for ‘O Lord who dares to smite thee.’
A bravo to the choir soloists who interjected as different characters at various points throughout the performance.
The interchange of power and passion was delivered with energy and soul for each entry. Powerful, dynamic entries for ‘His blood be on our children’ showed both anger and passion and transferred this beautifully to the audience.
‘O sacred head sore wounded’ was simply beautiful. Thought provoking and well phrased. People singing from the heart and transferring the lamenting message to the audience perfectly.
A rousing finale ensued. Bright, animated faces, showing the amazing stamina shown by all who took part in a performance which professional choirs would have been proud.
A huge thank-you for a very communicative and passionate performance, which seemed to encompass many strands of musicianship that were cleverly transferred between the participants and audience.
Here’s to the next performance…..
Congratulations on a wonderful concert. The choir were amazing! My husband said that his spine tingled when you shouted 'Barrabas’! Sue Austen O1 Oboe 1
I just want to say how much I enjoyed playing for Eversley. I as a member of the orchestra and my husband who was in the audience felt extremely inspired by such an intense piece. The ambience of the whole event was captured by both the choir and orchestra. In fact my John listened to a chunk of it again when we arrived home!! I hope you feel you can relax a little now it’s all over (certainly until the next time!) and please pass our congratulations to all concerned. Well done again! Jo Wood O2 Bassoon
Yesterday was very a great success, more than enjoyable to be part of. Thanks for all the work setting the event up, the weather was perfectly timed. Ian Jones took a lot on in the time available, Choirs, Soloists and Orchestras directed with skill throughout. Nigel Atkinson O1 Oboe 2
I thought the performance was a very moving one. Many thanks to Ian for that and to you and others involved in the organisation of it all for all your hard work. Pam Redman O2 Leader
Thanks for your kind words - it was a rare chance for us to play such a huge and demanding work with a choir and soloists full of confidence and vigour. The pause at the end and the level of applause proved what a fine performance it was, in a wonderful setting, on a perfect evening. Linda Walker O2 Violin 2
Westmorland Gazette, 8th June 2017
DRAMA, pomp, passionate supplication and piety too - all in the hall of Queen Elizabeth School. The occasion was a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, given by the Eversley Choir, with soloists Emily Robinson, Sarah Jillian Cox, Christopher Steele and Alan Fairs, plus orchestra – all conducted by the choir’s musical director, Ian Jones.
The Requiem means a lot to us in these islands. In 1950, Bernard Shaw had the Libera Me played at his funeral, and in 1997 that same piece was used to bury Princess Diana. Most of us are familiar with parts of Requiem - the spine-chilling Dies Irae, the hushed magnificence of the soprano’s pianissimo high-octave leap in the Libera Me. But we rarely have a chance to experience the whole work live. Even in our part of the country, where there are so many concerts by so many choirs and orchestras, few dare to take on such a gigantic work. For one thing, the forces they involve are so large. But in Kirkby Lonsdale (with a repeat at Capernwray Hall), someone dared. And very good it was too - excellent soloists, choir, instrumentalists; over a hundred performers altogether - all led by the ‘man who dared,’ conductor Ian Jones. The playing and singing were of high quality. But such pieces depend for impact on building up a highly-charged emotional atmosphere, and this too was achieved.
Concert review: An uplifting musical experience in Capernwray
The Lancaster area is blessed with a rich musical culture and the performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Eversley choir with professional soloists and a small orchestra, conducted by the brave Ian Jones on Sunday 14 May at Capernwray Hall was a very special highlight. The concert, in aid of Save The Children Fund, took place on a glorious Spring evening, the park providing a peaceful setting for this most dramatic of pieces.
The orchestra gave a spirited and accomplished performance. With only 35 players the forces were in scale with Capernwray’s modern hall. I could hear every detail; the strings were brilliant, especially in the quiet sections, while percussion and brass came across with the appropriate intensity.
The choir was superb, as if singing for their very lives: excellent diction of the Latin text, disciplined phrasing and holding the moment between sections quite beautifully. Quiet moments built up to powerful and very moving crescendos, e.g. in the Kyrie and Dies Irae. The sudden diminuendo in the finale of the Libera Me was particularly effective.
The four soloists, Jane Irwin [soprano], Sarah Jillian Cox [mezzo-soprano] Christopher Steele [tenor] and Alex Ashworth [bass] were individually powerful and collectively worked very well in the duets, trios and quartets. The tenor’s Italianate voice was beautiful and perfect for Verdi. The bass sent shivers down my spine. The mezzo-soprano and the soprano were wonderful and, for the most part, projected well above the choir and the orchestra. Their heart-felt solos were one of the highlights of the evening and in the Agnus Dei duet their voices balanced beautifully.
There were a couple of moments during the performance when I couldn’t stop tears springing to my eyes: at the burst of sound from the choir after the hushed opening and then the huge drama of the opening of the Dies Irae. It was a wonderful, uplifting musical experience.