Portsmouth Choral Union at St Mary’s Church, Portsmouth

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Club Scene with Sam Cherry

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This was one of those rare concerts in which perspiration in preparation is matched by inspiration in performance.

Even those of us who have doubts about the status of The Music Makers among Elgar’s major choral works can only have been swept away by the conviction of Jonathan Willcocks’s conducting and the commitment of his large choir.

They made the quotations from other Elgar works seem a natural part of the tapestry. They caught all the moods of confidence and doubt, passion and tenderness. And the final, floated reprise of the opening lines had a breath-catching other-worldliness.

Soloist Margaret McDonald also sang with skill, rich tone and unforced colouring of words, both in the Elgar and in the Alto Rhapsody by Brahms. Nothing here was exaggerated, allowing the contrast with the expressive male voices to make a natural impact.

The Southern Pro Musica played splendidly throughout the concert. It began with Rossini’s William Tell overture - a bizarre choice to precede the mystical Toward The Unknown Region by Vaughan Williams. Here the potency of Walt Whitman’s words was paramount.