REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Soon Amore Choir’s afternoon concert, 12/2/23

The poster for Soon Amore Choir’s Sunday concert

Soon Amore Choir, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, February 12

THE Soon Amore Choir programme was very much a pick’n’mix affair – and a very tasty one too.

It opened with a hunting call on natural horn, which threaded through the first half, chasing the concluding traditional French fanfare Et Chansons de Chasse. Of course, this was somewhat contrived, but it did treat us to the superb playing of Martin Lawrence.

There was much to enjoy here, not least the performances of Shoebox and Heavy Laden with Jane Stockdale (voice) and Dave Pearce (piano). Stockdale sang Shoebox with an instinctive feeling for folksong tradition while Pearce’s crisp piano octave attacks dispelled any sentimentality.  For Heavy Laden they were joined by the choir with the simple counterpoint setting acting to reinforce the song’s world-weary narrative.

The traditional Ghanaian Senwa Dedende was performed by the “people’s” choir, that is, us. And very well indeed and certainly better than our vocal coach, Chris Bartram!

As I know David Lancaster personally, it wouldn’t be particularly professional to comment on his piece itself. Suffice to say that the distinctive sound-world of Fell was very well performed by Soon Amore in its world premiere, where the ritualistic, repetitive choral statements were very clearly delivered, commenting on the convincing spoken narrative by Laura Potts and Gary Craig. Martin Lawrence’s playing was, of course, imperious.

By contrast, Bruckner’s sweet, touching Locus Iste simply glowed with joy. Following an impressive The Deer’s Cry by Arvo Part, which is actually quite tricky, the “people’s” choir were back to perform the traditional Bella Mama. The higher pitch gave our vocal coach the opportunity to redeem himself, which he did admirably. It was genuine fun singing the simple canon and very satisfying too.

Eric Whitacre is a very fine composer and his choral writing is always distinctive. The choir clearly relished the lovely harmonies and gentle dissonances of his Sleep and their enjoyment was infectious. For me, anyway.

Chris Bartram is an excellent, entirely musical conductor and his engaging manner made the Sunday afternoon concert a very rewarding experience.

Review by Steve Crowther