Soloists dazzle in Ottery church concert

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Jane Blake reviews last month’s concert at Ottery Parish Church:

A capacity audience was thrilled by the glorious soaring music of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle performed by the Otter St Mary Choral Society on Saturday 31st March.

As usual they and the orchestra were conducted by their Musical Director Malcolm Matthews, and on this occasion they were joined by four outstanding soloists.

The soprano Héloïse West, tenor Leslie Baker, bass David Fouracre, who all have strong connections with Devon, and from Sweden Sofia Flodin, who had previously flown over to sing Verdi’s Requiem with the choir in Exeter Cathedral. The choir, now well known for successfully tackling difficult works, gave a sensitive and musical rendition of this piece.

Musically it is very operatic, but nonetheless is so cleverly constructed as to fit the words of the Mass perfectly.

Outstanding moments were the soprano and contralto duet Qui Tollis. The voices blended perfectly and there was a subtlety of phrasing that gave extra meaning to the music.

The final Agnus Dei for contralto and chorus was the highlight of the performance, and the piece with Sofia Flodin’s rich voice balanced well with the choir for a magnificent ending to an outstanding work.

To recognise the Queen’s jubilee, and as a great contrast, the other works on the programme were three of Handel’s four Coronation Anthems.

They were all performed with enthusiasm and it was a good idea to give some parts to the soloists to create an interesting balance.

Once again, as in past performances, the choir was able to draw on a member, Pauline Belton, to sing with the soloists in the quintet in My Heart is Inditing, and her voice blended well in this slow section.

It was definitely a night to remember.

Malcolm Matthews appears unflappable in the face of the occasional missed or hesitant entry, which were not particularly noticeable.

The orchestra acquitted itself well, competently led by Sarah Greinig, and once more the magnificent setting of the Parish Church provided superb acoustics.


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