REVIEW: Portsmouth Festival Choir at Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral

Portsmouth Festival Choir                                        Picture: Diana Wren
Portsmouth Festival Choir Picture: Diana Wren
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Pity the concert promoter who plans an enterprising programme and finds the performers outnumbering the audience.

That appeared to be the fate of Portsmouth Festival Choir, which rolled Remembrance and Christmas into one in Peter Allwood’s farewell concert as music director.

Main attraction was the latest version of a work in progress by Adrian Bawtree, former director of music at St Mary’s in Portsmouth where it was previously performed there by the Festival Choir.

Now entitled Remembrance, it draws on popular songs from the First World War. The music now shows greater confidence and imagination in its instrumental writing, and the opening was played with flair by the Portsmouth Festival Orchestra.

Contrastingly, a melancholy viola solo in The Mind of an Inquisitive Child, answered by a serene violin, was an example of expressive subtlety.

Austin Gunn was a forthright, heroic tenor here and in Britten’s cantata, St Nicolas, where the soloist’s virtues included a refusal to ape the quirky style of the composer’s favourite, Peter Pears.

And the men’s chorus produced a dramatic crescendo for the line, ‘Lightning split the waves’.