Review: Portsmouth Choral Union at Portsmouth Guildhall

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An enterprising programme, given as part of the Portsmouth Festivities, was in the event a mixed bag.

It didn’t help that the auditorium lights were turned off in the first half, negating the value of printing texts and translations in the programme.

But more importantly the massed forces of Portsmouth’s biggest classical chorus, with Fareham Philharmonic Choir and choristers from St John’s College, Southsea, lacked the cohesion required to raise the roof in the Te Deum by Berlioz.

The playing of the professional Southern Pro Musica was sometimes scrappy, lacking weight in Wagner’s Mastersingers overture and rigour at some of the biggest moments elsewhere, but the adult choirs were the main disappointment of the evening.

Even the Choral Union alone, at its best, would have sounded more commanding in the Stabat Mater and Te Deum from Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces – and the Berlioz suffered even more.

The tenors’ weakness resulted not from lack of numbers but from poor sonority, and in Dignare the organ, admirably played by Ian Richardson, was much more expressive than the sopranos.

But conductor David Gostick ensured that the ending was duly thrilling.