Review: new musical director takes helm of Sidmouth Coral Society

The recent concert of the Sidmouth Choral Society in the parish church marked the start of a new phase in its long and distinguished history.

The concert was under the baton of the society’s new musical director, Kris Emmett, who directed his 66-strong choir, soloists Chloe Stratta (soprano), Alexandra Beaufoy (mezzo soprano), Jane Anderson-Brown (alto) and organist Andy Benoy. Kris showed how Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, despite being composed some 300 years ago, was such an inspired work that sounded as fresh to 21st Century ears as when it was first composed.

It was written while Vivaldi was employed at the Ospedale della Pietà, an institution in Venice for the care and musical training of abandoned girls. Its 12 movements are full of distinctive melodies and rhythms that have universal appeal. The musical score was not discovered until the 1920s and not performed until 1939, since when it has enjoyed great popularity.

The choir’s performance was noteworthy for its enthusiastic but beautifully balanced singing and clear diction. Chloe Stratta’s soprano voice was particularly suited to the Laudamus te and Domine Deus movements. The rhythmic pulse of much of the work was effectively provided by the ensemble of eight members of the Plymouth University Orchestra of which Kris is assistant conductor.

The remainder of the concert was devoted to seasonal music, but before that the audience enjoyed a contrasting interlude of two jazz preludes (Bossa Nova and Afro-Cuban) played with great flair by Andy Benoy.

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The selection of Christmas music for the second half of the concert was imaginatively chosen, and included very early carols (Adam lay ybounden, and Sir Christémas), familiar ones (O come all ye Faithful, and In the Bleak Midwinter), distinctive interpretations (by Chloe Stratta) of Let the Bright Seraphim and The Holly and the Ivy, and ending with This Glorious Christmas Day, composed by Kris Emmett himself.

This is a stirring new carol which clearly pleased the choir and audience alike and brought the whole concert to a resoundingly seasonal end. A retiring collection was then made for the dedicated work of Sidmouth Hospiscare.

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Keith Orrell

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