Portsmouth Choral Union at St Mary’s Church

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In a concert of mainly unaccompanied music at St. Mary’s church, Portsmouth Choral Union presented a programme of music ranging from Baroque to contemporary. They began with Bach’s demanding ‘Jesu Meine Freude’. There were well-chosen tempi here, and some good dynamic contrasts. In places however, the choir sounded tentative with some passages of problematic ensemble.

Tackling the difficult harmonies and frequent subdivisions of voices in three songs by the contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre, PCU become a different choir. They were bold and confident and responded well to the direction of conductor Jonathan Willcocks. They provided a great climax to the final verse of ‘Sleep’, and ‘Lux Aurumque’ produced well controlled, sustained singing. There was a brief, but memorable solo from Sylvia Lock in this second number. Extracts from Rachmaninov’s ‘Vespers’, sung in convincing Russian, were also very well performed. The sustained ‘Glory to God’ showed the alto line off to good effect, whilst ‘Praise the Name’ was rhythmic and vibrant.

The choir items were separated by ravishing vocal solos from soprano ‘Faye Eldret’, whose glorious voice delighted the audience in songs by Barber and Rachmaninov. In these she was admirably, and sensitively accompanied by David Gostick.