With Dvorák’s Mass in D Major as the centrepiece, Portsmouth Festival Choir – in its first concert with new musical director Thomas Neal fully at the helm – presented a programme of Czech and Russian music.
Sacred works by near contemporaries Labinski, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Janácek were juxtaposed in the first half, including three contrasting versions of The Lord’s Prayer.
It was an interesting idea and there were undoubtedly some pleasing moments, however tuning, energy and confidence were somewhat lacking.
For the Dvorák, the choir was joined by four impressive young performers from the Royal College of Music, who blended beautifully in the Benedictus and Agnus Dei. It was a shame that tenor Dominic Bevan had some issues with top notes in what was otherwise a creditable performance.
Achieving a balance of voice parts is a perennial challenge for choirs, so attracting new members must surely be a priority for the festival choir. What bodes well for its future, however, is Neal’s obvious rapport with the singers and determination to bring out their best.