The Choral Society drawns on a rich heritage of music from all eras for its performances. Please browse the sections below for details!
Programme to be announced in due course.
This is a searchable list of music. Enter search criteria (e.g. Bach, Chandos) in the search box. Re-order the results by clicking on the column headings.
Historical Reviews and Notes
Saturday 27th March 2004 – George Dyson’s “The Canterbury Pilgrims”
Written by John Hywel, Welsh Amateur Music Making representative, published in “Making Music Highnotes”.
Every once in a while amateur choral societies are sufficiently emboldened to try something a little out of the ordinary and to venture beyond the boundaries of known repertoire and to try both unknown and unfamiliar works. Such a piece is George Dyson’s “The Canterbury Pilgrims” and the brave choir that ventured into the unknown was the St Asaph Choral Society under the direction of Paul Harvey, accompanied by the Philharmonia of North Wales on the occasion of their 40th Anniversary. Largely because of the, regrettably still prevailing, fashion for modernism and unedifying complexity in avant-garde music, at least one, if not two, generations of British composers have been deliberately neglected by the musical establishment. Foremost among those subject to total ignoral in the decades following 1945 were Gerald Finzi and Herbert Howells; a lesser luminary, Geroge Dyson, however, suffers nothing in comparison with these and a work such as “The Canterbury Pilgrims” provides ample and interesting challenges for performers and audience alike.
The tenor and bass soloists, Stephen Newlove and Nigel Shaw, gave an impressive and fluent account of the solo numbers, juxtaposing the high drama of Chaucer’s Monk and Franklin, whilst soprano soloist Susan Williams dealt equally well with the pert, put-on sweetness of the Nun.
Curiously, Dyson gives the choir pride of place in the billing describing “The Canterbury Pilgrims” as a work for “Chorus, orchestra and three soloists” – in that order! Listening to the St Asaph Choral Society one can see why. No choral makeweights here – the choral writing is just as important, dramatic and colourful as the solo writing. Notwithstanding the occasional imbalance (due mainly to the perennial problems of securing equal number of male and female voices), the choir gave a truly stunning account: by terms grand and appropriately massive when pitted against the full orchestra, and subtle in unaccompanied sections such as the Prologue. Choral fugal entries were particularly good in “The Knight” and “The Clerk of Oxenford” even though the tempo dragged a little in the latter. (This might, however, have been a deliberate ploy to illustrate the rather pedantic nature of the character.)
Orchestral colouring and performance was particularly good in “The Doctor of Physic” with delicate interplay between woodwind and harp. Overall, though, greater contrasts were sometimes overplayed by massed orchestral forces and, very occasionally, the orchestra drowned the soloists and even the choir.
The audience keenly followed the soprano soloist’s words in “The Wife of Bath” – witness the enthusiastic massed rustling of programmes. The high spot of the evening for me, however, was the choir’s rendition of “A Poor Parson of a Town”. Loveliest of all the choral numbers, the choir performed both beautifully and beatifically as they reached a sublime, numinous and thoroughly captivating climax to the work.
Director’s Notes February 2009
After the moving performance of Brahms’ German Requiem in December, we are now looking forward (or back) to the Baroque period for our next exciting performance. We have a great line up of local soloists of distinction and will be performing some of the most popular music of Vivaldi – the Gloria in D together with Bach’s Cantata 147, which of course, contains the much loved Jesu, Joy of Man’s desiring chorus. However there is a substantial chorus to open the work as well as some most interesting solo recitatives and arias that deserve to be better known.
Over its life, the Society has sung a huge range of music, spanning the centuries in the lovely setting of St Asaph Cathedral, noted for its fine acoustic for choral music. We do need, however, to continue recruiting new singers to maintain and develop our tradition. Do think about joining up, or mentioning to your friends and colleagues about this possibility and look out for ways of helping us promote our work. If you do not feel you could sing with the choir, why not help out as a helper – publicity of both concerts and chorister recruitment will be greatly appreciated by he members of the choir and committee!
Looking forward to December, we will have the opportunity to sing a 20th century favourite, Britten’s St Nicholas together with audience carols, but notably some Christmas Carols by our former conductor, Paul Harvey. Don’t miss it!
Do make a note now of Saturday 26 April in St Asaph Cathedral for our Baroque concert and while the diary is open you would be well–advised to insert 12 April for my other choir’s concert – the Colwyn Choral Society will be giving a contrasting programme of 20th century music in St Paul’s, Colwyn Bay – Bernstein’s exciting Chichester Psalms coupled with the sublime setting of the Requiem by Maurice Durufle.