According to the programme notes, the title of this concert can be taken to mean not only music from many countries but also music from the different genres of the musical world, and both meanings certainly proved extremely apt in this thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable evening.
The tone was set right at the beginning with the decidedly quirky introductions by MC Richard Bennett, several of them referring to the fact that certain choir members had misunderstood some of the song titles and which I might have believed had he not informed us that the Dave Clark Five’s ‘Glad all over’ was inspired by Parry’s ‘I was glad’. And then there was the business of muddling up a clarinet with a saxophone, but don’t change your scriptwriter Richard – I like your style.
Musical Director extraordinaire Ivy Tan doesn’t make life easy for her singers and her eclectic choice of numbers had them singing in several European languages as well as in English and ‘nonsense’ (of which more later), and a fine job they made of it. From Parry’s ‘I was glad’ through to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and ‘Climb every mountain’ via Ireland, Israel, USA, Italy, France, Spain and Austria, this was a musical journey well worth taking.
There were definitely no troughs during the evening but more than a few peaks, one of the best being a little ditty called ‘Neek noozle neek’ by the late American composer, Elliot Borishansky. This spoken work was written for 4-part chorus, percussion and an actor, and the language in which it is performed has been described as ‘nonsense’. Nonsense it may be but, to quote WS Gilbert, ‘Oh what precious nonsense’. The audience, and clearly the performers too, loved it.
Enya’s ‘Only time’ also hit the right spot, as did Johann Strauss’s ‘Mit leichtem Blut’ and Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t get around much any more’, played on clarinet and guitar by Pam and Paul Berry, the latter of whom also got well into the spirit of ‘Great balls of fire’ – loved the shades and the leather jacket!
I don’t have room to mention every number but I can’t leave out the gorgeous ‘Deh! Con te, con te li prendi’ from Bellini’s Norma, sublimely sung by Poppy Garvey and Anita Rosser, or Mel Brooks’s hilarious ‘Men in tights’, although I was a little concerned at the relish with which the men sang it. Perhaps, after all, they should have been allowed to dress the part…
With excellent accompaniment from pianist Kumi Preston and percussionist Graeme Thew, and the entire choir looking a treat, this really was a super evening – but may I please put in a plea for water bottles to be left in the dressing room? There were so many of them and they did nothing to enhance the stage, and since each half was fairly short and the weather was on the chilly side, they seemed unnecessary.
There are further performances on 8 June at Canford Magna Church and on 9 June at Ringwood Parish Church.