REVIEW: Chanctonbury Chorus in Steyning

BATTERED by economic recession, it was a pleasure to find us retreating to Steyning church for its hosting of the Chanctonbury Chorus Concert.

Yet there was more than just a buzz in the drenched calm of its cool walls, for here we were to celebrate the 30th anniversary and remarkable success of this treasured local choir.

The three choral pieces on offer clearly were chosen to demonstrate its flexibility and prowess.

We started with Parry’s I Was Glad. The chorus made an immediate impression – solid, firm and rousing – though it was compromised by the adverse balance of the organ. It was only when the accompanist moved onto the swell organ and closed the box that we began to have something like a perfect balance.

Next, one of Handel’s evergreen Chandos Anthems – No 9 Title, where the chorus was joined by the two excellent soloists of the evening – Stephen Brown (tenor) and Stephen Foulkes (bass). Both possessed full, sonorous voices which made an exciting impact.

Here the chorus was certainly put through a musical lexicon of vocal techniques. In all, they were securely conducted by Siobhan Denning whose grip on the evening’s music-making ensured its success.

It was not until we came to the Gloria of Puccini that we realised we really had strayed into a different palate of sound. With a masterly orchestral reduction of the original score, the Chanctonbury Chorus stood up and relished every turn of this sojourn of a musical tour. The orchestra here, occasionally exposed in the first half of the concert, garnered itself into a reverential romp.

It was terrific fun and at the same time curiously moving. The felicitous choice of leaving the Gloria section to the last allowed this excellent chorus to round off its celebrations with a fire-cracking delivery of this exuberant section.

Elizabeth Shepley