For their summer concert, Portsmouth Baroque Choir chose, as the main items, two strongly contrasting contemporary works.
The first being by Jonathan Dove, and the second, by John Rutter. New music, whilst often challenging, needs to be heard in convincing and confident performances.
Dove’s The Passing of the Year, commissioned by the London Symphony Chorus – and written for double choir, is certainly challenging, especially for the much smaller forces of the Baroque Choir.
Sympathetically accompanied by Karen Kingsley, the choir rose to this challenge in fine style.
There was strong rhythmic attack, dissonant harmonies were well handled, and a wide range of vocal timbre and dynamic range on display.
Momentum was lost briefly in the penultimate verse of the final movement and there were some intonation issues in movement six.
However, the climactic moments were powerful and convincing, the rhythmic challenges exciting, and the quieter moments – as in movement five – atmospheric.
It was clear that conductor Malcolm Keeler, and his singers, had put much effort into this rewarding work’s preparation.
By contrast, Rutter’s The Sprig of Thyme is a much easier ‘nut to crack’.
Supported by piano and four wind instruments, these skilful and contrasting folk-song arrangements allowed the choir to demonstrate its purity of line in all vocal parts.
Particular mention should be made of the neatly ornamented vocal line of ‘Once I had a sprig of thyme’, the blended tone of men’s voices in ‘Down By The Sally Gardens and the rollicking accompaniment to The Miller of Dee.