Portsmouth Choral Union, St Mary’s Church, Fratton​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​, REVIEW: ‘Brought the story to life’

Portsmouth Choral Union.
Portsmouth Choral Union.

Written almost 200 years ago, Hummel’s oratorio ‘The Crossing of the Red Sea’ received its first ever UK performance when Portsmouth Choral Union sang it along with Mozart’s great C minor mass.

Stylistically reminiscent of Haydn’s Creation, the Hummel tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. The chorus are integral to the retelling of this story, requiring them to be grief stricken, pleading, full of wonderment and finally exultant. It was obvious that conductor David Gostick had prepared them well. Their clear involvement with the drama brought the story to life, as did the authoritative singing of tenor Nicholas Sharratt and baritone Edward Price.

Among a strong line-up of soloists, soprano Claire Seaton was outstanding – sustained high notes were seemingly effortless, and several E flats above high C were astonishing. The Mozart also gave an opportunity for soprano Nina Bennet to display her virtuosity in the demanding Laudamus te, which she concluded with a stylishly interpolated high C. Both sopranos blended beautifully in the Domine Deus, and also in Quoniam tu solus – where Nicholas Sharratt was the stylish tenor. The chorus, despite a slightly nervous start to Gratias Agimus, were rhythmically alert in the quicker sections of the Gloria and Credo. Orchestral support was provided by the ever-reliable Southern Pro Musica.

DAVID HOLMES