Portsmouth Baroque Choir at Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral

Black Star Riders: from left, Scott Gorham, Chad Szeliga, Ricky Warwick,  Robbie Crane and Damon Johnson.  Picture by Richard Stow

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A well-planned concert of two halves – English and French – was impressively performed by the 34-strong choir conducted by Malcolm Keeler.

His meticulous preparation was evident in phrasing, tone colouring and dynamics, even if it might have been supplemented by more in-the-moment inspiration.

The restrained emotions of Thomas Morley’s Burial Service were followed by John Rutter’s more upfront Requiem, which combines his usual flair for easy-on-the-ear melody with occasional harmonic pungency and an imaginative selection of texts.

The movement from darkness to light was skilfully achieved, notably in the setting of Psalm 130 (‘Out of the deep’), but the performance reached its heights in Psalm 23, with its long, poignant oboe solo.

Soprano Sian Bibby-Hsia stepped forward from the choir to take extended and richly expressive solo roles in the first half and in Poulenc’s Gloria at the end.

The other French works were Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium, whose chaste beauty was well-captured, and a Durufle organ solo in which Peter Newman showed virtuosity of technique and expression.