Portsmouth Festival Choir at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral

Paradise Lost. Picture: Danny Payne

REVIEW: Paradise Lost at Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

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A SATISFYING yet sad occasion. Satisfying in quality of programming and performance, sad in being music director Andrew Cleary’s farewell to the choir.

It was fitting that a world premiere , commissioned from Cecilia McDowall, should be included in this finale, and it did not disappoint.

Called Shipping Forecast and using names such as Fisher, Dogger and German Bight from that BBC Radio institution, it consists essentially of two poems by Portsmouth-born Sean Street separated by verses from a psalm, They that go down to the sea in ships.

The music has some distinctly modernist harmonies but is always approachable and always effective in evoking the sea’s moods before reaching a surprise ending.

The performance reflected the choir’s massive development in expressive quality under Mr Cleary, as did the others in a well-planned programme.

It began with Michael Hurd’s Five Spiritual Songs, and ended with Five Mystical Songs by Vaughan Williams where baritone soloist Giles White was powerfully dramatic and lyrical by turn.

Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, played with organ, harp and percussion rather than orchestra, also had counter-tenor Alasdair Forbes rather than a boy treble as soloist, and he sounded the very model of a Jewish cantor.