Reviews

 

 

 

 

July 19th 2017 Mozart Mass in C Minor with the European Union Chamber Orchestra

Concerts given by EUCO or the Festival Chorus are always special, so a concert where both participate is an event made in heaven.

At Wednesday’s very well attended event , EUCO, directed from the violin by the dynamic Hans-Peter Hofmann, performed a lithe and joyous account of Haydn’s Symphony No.42 inD Major, balancing the light and shade of the piece nicely.

This symphony, although written in what is known as his Storm and Stress-period, seemed to be written in a less agitated style and this was reflected in the performance.

Ben Goldsheider , winner of the brass category final in the 2016 BBC Young Musician Competition, seems to be well on his way to a fine musical career, certainly based on the evidence of the confident and lyrical performance he gave of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 in E Flat , K495 – yes, the one with the famous Rondo finale! Beautifully phrased with a smooth but clear tone the ebullient performance went down very well with the packed audience.

In the second half we were treated to a dramatic and moving rendering of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, K427, left incomplete by the composer at the time of composition in 1782. It’s nicknamed ‘The Great’ and certainly it’s style harks back at times to that of Handel, JS and CPE Bach and perhaps looks forward to the masses of Haydn.

The chorus, sang with great passion and fire, especially in the minor key sections, but could also perform with delicacy and solemnity when appropriate. The orchestra were again on top form, and soloists Clare Tunney, Ilona Revolskaya (sopranos), Hiroshi Amako (tenor), and Nicholas Mogg (baritone) completed a tremendous line-up under the distinctive direction of Tom Appleton.

Lynn News July 2017

July 12th 2015 Viva! Vivaldi

Once again the King’s Lynn Festival has got off to a rousing and uplifting start, especially important in this, its 65th year.

Concerts involving the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus are always memorable and popular with music lovers, and the combination of the Chorus, European Union Chamber Orchestra, soloists Ruth Jenkins-Ròbertsson (soprano), Sarah-Jane Lewis (2nd soprano) and music directors Hans-Peter Hofmann (EU Chamber Orchestra) and Tom Appleton, proved a winning combination!

The choice of opening work, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, was welcome and the performance, led from the violin by Hans-Peter Hofmann, was imaginative, enthusiastic and played by all with incisive, clean and accurate attack.

Well done also to the harpsichord continuo player; I always look forward to hearing this part played with flair!  The performance, well received, certainly was in the ‘authentic’ style of playing, very much the norm nowadays.

I am pleased to report any fears I had of the substantial Chorus swamping the orchestra and two excellent soloists in the remaining Baroque works were not realised!

It was good news to hear a less well-known piece (J.S Bach’s Motet: ‘Lobet den Herrn’ BWV230) and then the concert came to a close with a dynamic performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria in D Major, RV589, again, the largish chorus sang with passion and precision, likewise the two splendid soloists shining in their contributions.

Thanks for the splendid opening concert, perhaps we could hear the other surviving setting of the Gloria by Vivaldi also in D Major, sometime. 

Andy Tyler, Lynn News & Advertiser July 2015

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Celebrations for the 65th King’s Lynn Festival got off to an excellent start with the renowned European Union Chamber Orchestra playing a lively and beautifully balanced rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Hans-Peter Hofmann’s superb violin playing and overall direction brought the programmatic drama of the work to compelling life with a particularly striking presto movement in the Summer concerto.  The second half saw the Festival Chorus in fine voice for Bach’s motet Lobet den Herrn before being rejoined by the full orchestra and guest sopranos Ruth Jenkins-Ròbertsson and Sarah-Jane Lewis for Gloria.  Under Tom Appleton’s skilful direction both orchestra and choir suffused the piece with warmth and energy from the first notes of the joyous opening chorus. 

Sue Burge Eastern Daily Press, July 2015                                                          


March 14th 2015 Brilliant Lights

Brilliant Lights was the descriptive title of this innovative concert featuring the music of living composers in music director Tom Appleton’s quest to introduce the 80-strong chorus and their audience to exciting contemporary music.                    

The programme opened with The Seagull by John Hearne, a haunting folk song from the Isle of Skye augmented by the cries of sailors, the sound of the waves and the calls of seagulls.  It was dramatically presented with the singers positioned around the church and deservedly received a warm reception, as did the composer who was in the audience and later expressed his delight in the performance.

Soprano Elenor Bowers-Jolley made a striking contribution to James MacMillan’s Christus Vincit, then John Rutter fans could immerse themselves in the Cambridge-based composer’s moving Gaelic Blessing, and upbeat numbers from his Psalmfest.

Eric Whitacre, the American composer who launched the first ‘virtual choir’, was represented by four pieces including his lovely Alleluia. Whitacre was much influenced by fellow American Morten Lauridsen whose Lux Aeterna, with its lush harmonies, brought ancient texts to modern ears.

The chorus rose to the new challenges in great style with sterling support from John Byron (piano).  Alison Croose - Eastern Daily Press, March 2015

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As soon as we saw the Chorus walk around the audience and not on to the stage, we knew we were in for something different and we certainly were.

The concert was called ‘Brilliant Lights’ and the well-selected programme gave us some of the best choral compositions by present day composers.

It was a very different beginning  to the usual concert and we were transported to the Isle of Skye as John Hearne’s ‘The Seagull’ was ably performed with the altos giving a jolly good impression of those raucous birds while a haunting Scottish folk melody floated above sung by the sopranos.  The tenors and basses added to the atmosphere like the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.

The applause was loud and long – just as well as the composer had made the trip from the Highlands to hear his work performed.  I was told afterwards that he was so impressed by the standard of the Chorus that he has invited them to Aberdeen for some concerts in 2017.

James Macmillan’s ethereal ‘Christus Vincit’ followed with Ellie Bowers-Jolley singing from the far end of the church so those very high notes floated down the church over us.  John Rutter is well known for his carols and hymns and his ‘Gaelic Blessing’ and items from his work ‘Psalmfest’ were performed with enthusiasm and sensitivity.  More sensitivity and a great regard for controlled silences was shown in three pieces by the rock star of the classical music world, Eric Whitacre, who is Composer in Residence at Sidney Sussex College Cambridge.

After the interval Whitacre’s ‘Alleluia’ was performed with great skill and again Miss Bowers-Jolley seemed to achieve the highest notes without any effort.  To end the concert, we experienced a very moving and beautiful performance of Morten Lauridsen’s ‘Lux Aeterna’.

The Chorus has come a long way under the directorship of Tom Appleton and they obviously have a very high regard for him, as they responded well to his requests for changes in dynamics and tonal quality.  John Byron provided exceptional accompaniment and we were very privileged and fortunate to have such a talented group of musicians in the King’s Lynn area.

Well done King’s Lynn Festival Chorus.

I strongly recommend you go along to their next performance: more classical compositions by Vivaldi and Bach at Lynn Corn Exchange in July with the European Union Chamber Orchestra.  Rose Hubbard  Lynn News & Advertiser  March 2015


December 13th 2014 Christmas with the Chorus

The 80-strong choir heralded Christmas with a suitably festive concert featuring a shortened version of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.          

It proved an attractive and uplifting adaptation of the Christmas story, particularly as chorus bass, the Rev. Andrew Haig, wrote and narrated the English text version.  His words put into context and added to the enjoyment of the accomplished performance of the chorales from the oratorio’s six pieces of music.  The choir, under musical director Tom Appleton, and with excellent support from John Byron (piano) did full justice to the work which benefited from the ecclesiastical setting.

There was a change of mood after the interval when the chorus sang delightful arrangements of favourite carols and seasonal music including Sussex Carol by David Willcocks and John Rutter’s Joy to the World and Twelve Days of Christmas.

Another high spot was the world première of Sonnet in Pale Blue by King’s Lynn music student Lewis Wolstanholme who is studying at Goldsmiths, University of London.  The choir’s performance of the atmospheric choral setting of his own poem was very well received.

To complete the concert the large audience joined in singing popular carols.   Alison Croose - Eastern Daily Press, December 2014


July 22nd 2014  Brahms German Requiem

Marking the halfway point in what is proving to be yet another enormously successful King’s Lynn Festival, the evening’s concert began with Brahms’ Four Serious Songs, beautifully enunciated by baritone Gareth Brynmore John.  Then the Chorus, under the inspirational direction of Tom Appleton, sang two pieces by Schütz, Blessed are the Dead and Psalm 84, completing a moving first half in an evening created to remember those lost in The Great War.

Brahms’ German Requiem, premiered in 1867 for choir and orchestra, is described as more of an act of consolation for the bereaved than a requiem for the dead.  The ‘London Version’, which appeared a year later and was extremely popular, can be for two pianos or piano, four hands.  The Chorus chose the latter, superbly played by Ann Le Hair and John Byron, who revealed the work’s underlying structure and intricacies over which the singers wove a rich tapestry of sound.  Appleton’s strategy of using a soloist off-stage worked wonderfully in the fourth movement with soprano Eleanor Bowers-Jolley’s voice coming from the Balcony area of the Corn Exchange, transforming a secular building into an almost ecclesiastical space.

Sue Burge - Eastern Daily Press July 2014


March 30th 2014  In The Mood

And now for something completely different…King’s Lynn Festival Chorus broke new ground with a programme of popular swing classics for band and voices culminating in a triumphant performance of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue.

The 100-strong chorus, in the very capable hands of music director Tom Appleton, demonstrated its versatility with great arrangements of numbers including Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin, Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It and used their voices as instruments for In The Mood.

Springwood Big Band’s 16 musicians, directed by Eddie Seales, displayed youthful exuberance and considerable talent with lively performances of numbers such as Birdland and Shiny Stockings.

Focal point of the evening was Will Todd’s Mass composed 10 years ago when he was 33. He demonstrates that simple plainchant melodies and jazz rhythms and harmonies can work together to create an upbeat setting of the mass. The chorus rose admirably to this new challenge and the result was exciting and uplifting.

A highlight was the performance of soprano soloist Chloe Morgan who handled a very demanding role in true blues tradition, and John Byron’s piano accompaniment contributed much to a concert full of skill and vitality.

Alison Croose  -  Eastern Daily Press June 2014


July 14 2013 The Best Of British “What a rousing start for Festival”

A rousing royal anthem got this year’s King’s Lynn Festival off to an exciting start. Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest was the work, and one of this others, The King Shall Rejoice, closed the proceedings joyfully.

These two ceremonial works were performed by all participants in the concert, The European Union Chamber Orchestra, The King’s Lynn Festival Chorus, (supplemented with youngsters from Gresham’s Music Course) and in the orchestra’s brass section, Crispian Steele‐Perkins, who was later to give a cracking performance of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat, took part.

Appleton conducted with confidence (it’s not always easy to achieve a suitable balance with a chamber orchestra and comparatively large chorus). Tom’s podium commentaries are, also, always fun.

In other choral pieces including a delightful choral arrangement of Elgars Nimrod from his Enigma Variations entitled Lux Aeterna the chorus sang movingly, with elegance and style.

Several works by Benjamin Britten were included, a favourite of mine are the Choral Dances from his opera Gloriana (I sang them as a boy, our choir master having known Britten). One of the singers in the concert was the grandson of Britten’s doctor, as a boy, Oliver Hendrie.

A great contribution to the evening was made by children who have been part of this year’s Gresham’s Britten Music Course and they sang songs by Britten with audience participation.  

In a brief conversation with Crispian Steele‐Perkins after the concert we agreed we would have liked more music from the Kids, and, of course, from him!

Andy Tyler ‐ Lynn News and Advertiser

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There was a capacity audience on Sunday evening for the first event of the King’s Lynn Festival, a concert by the Festival Chorus and the European Union Chamber Orchestra. The Best of British included some of the music performed at the Queen’s coronation in 1953, as well as works by Britten, Handel’s anthem Zadok the Priest, written for the coronation of George II, and performed in every subsequent coronation.

Conductor Tom Appleton achieved consistently fine results from the choir in Britten’s early A Hymn to the Virgin and Hymn to Saint Cecilia, and gave a convincing reading of the Choral Dances from Gloriana before the only purely instrumental work, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, given a bravura performance from Crispian Steel‐Perkins. A wealth of beautiful choral music, Rutter’s Choral Fanfare, William Harris’s Faire is the Heaven and Elgar’s own arrangement of Nimrod preceded what proved to be the show stoppers; children participating in Gresham’s Britten Music Course and singing immaculately on minimal rehearsal: magical and truly uplifting. Another Handel anthem, The King Shall Rejoice provided a suitably festive conclusion.

Frank Cliff ‐ Eastern Daily Press


Sunday March 17 2013 Bach St. John Passion
"Truly Uplifting Concert by Festival Chorus"

Once again I am pleased to report on a truly uplifting concert by the marvelous King's Lynn Festival Chorus. The work performed was J.S. Bach's choral masterpiece The St. John Passion of 1724. It as great to be part of the large audience this choir now attracts.

The choir balanced well with the Meridan Sinfonia and sang with passion, tenderness and the necessary attack when required. The chorales were beautifully shaped and executed.

The soloists were consistently moving and the standard of singing first class. At the last minute Heather Cairncross was able to substitute for an indisposed member of the vocal team, and this worked well. Meanwhile, Tom Appleton directed the excellent Meridian Sinfornia and singers in a well‐contrasted and moving interpretation of the work.

Andy Tyler, Lynn News


December 15 2012 Christmas Carols: St Nicolas Cantata (Britten)

Where better to mark the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth than by performing his St Nicolas Cantata in the beautiful chapel named after the famous saint. But was the inclusion of Britten's work in the programme the reason why the chorus's traditional celebration of Christmas did not enjoy the full house it usually attracts?

It is unfortunate that the stigma of inaccessibility seems to mark some of Britten's music. But this cantata, the first work he wrote primarily for amateur performers, much enlivens the text and is characterised by the composer's exciting and contrasting musical styles.

Under the direction of Tom Appleton, the 90‐strong chorus transformed themselves into different characters to relate the adventures and events of the saint's life with the part of Nicolas sung by acclaimed tenor, Julian Forbes. The performance of the nine movements as much enhanced by the involvement of 19 members of Norfolk Symphony Orchestra, plus pianists John Byron and Chris Brown.

The programme was balanced by the audience singing traditional carols and the chorus delighted in lovely arrangements of Christmas music by favourite composers such as David Willcocks and John Rutter.

Alison Croose, Eastern Daily Press, December 2012


November 11 2012
Frank Martin Mass, Faure Requiem and Durufle Motets

 Audiences have grown to expect quality performances when the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus are involved and their latest concert was no exception.

At the heart of the evening was a tender and moving performance of Faure’s popular Requiem, op.48. The chorus sang with clarity, and young soloists, Anna Day and Edward Kay, sang with accuracy and assurance. Music director, Tom Appleton, gave a confident interpretation of the piece, emphasizing it’s more ethereal qualities, and organist Mark Jones supported well.

Some pieces chosen for the concert were not so well known and were equally performed with aplomb and panache. I, for one, welcomed the chance to hear music previously unknown to me, Durufle’s lovely Four Motets on Gregorian Theme, Op.10 and Frank Martin’s Mass for unaccompanied Double Choir.

A surprise element, as the performance of the Mass was prefaced with a fairly brief analysis and overview of the work by the conductor. A surprise to both chorus and audience, especially as the chorus gave musical examples to illustrate the points made.

A novel end to a superb concert of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century continental music.

Andrew Tyler, Lynn News, November 2012


April 6 2012 Rachmaninov Vespers St Nicholas’ Chapel, King’s Lynn

Sergei Rachmaninov dearly loved the All‐Night Vigil he composed in 1915 and it proved a popular choice for the audience which packed the chapel.

King’s Lynn Festival Chorus staged the work – intended for the eve of holy days – on Good Friday and it proved doubly poignant for they dedicated their performance to the memory of Muriel Brindle, a stalwart chorus member who died in February.

The setting, too, was ideal. Mrs Brindle was a trustee of the chapel’s Friends and sang in the inaugural Festival Chorus concert there in 1977.

The Vespers presented a major challenge to the 100‐strong chorus to sing in Russian but under the musical direction of conductor Tom Appleton they rose to the task. He set himself a stern test, too, for he also sang the solos.

Despite a relatively small male section Mr Appleton achieved good balance so the work could be enjoyed to greatest effect. The darkened church created the perfect atmosphere for the vespers’ simple ancient chant, but unfortunately it was not possible to follow the useful programme notes and translation. Nevertheless there was no doubting the audience’s enjoyment of this moving work.

Alison Croose, Eastern Daily Press, Monday April 9th 2012


Saturday 22nd October 2011 Bach B minor Mass, St. Nicholas' Chapel

Performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass give essential information about the good health of a choir and its musical director. On Saturday Tom Appleton gave us a performance of spectacular agility, with well‐chosen speeds and due attention to phrasing and articulation. The choir made light work of the intricate contrapuntal lines and had uniformly good tone, even when split into eight parts. Perhaps the fresh youthful sopranos and the consistently excellent tenors deserve a special mention.

There were great dramatic contrasts, from the intense joy of Cum Sancto Spiritu to the sustained quiet singing of Et Incarnatus Est. The four young soloists sang with beauty and intelligence. The soprano Elenor Bowers‐Jolley has a remarkable purity of tone which made for some memorable duetting with Beth Mackay, whose rich voice is thrilling throughout the register. The plangent, expressive voice of tenor Peter Davoren was particularly well used in the Benedictus, whilst the bass Alex Ashworth sang with warmth, authority and flexibility. The Meridian Sinfonia, a splendid young band of baroque specialists put the finishing touches to this highly enjoyable performance and gave us some marvellous solos. Bravo to all.

Janet Kelsey, Eastern Daily Press 28th Oct 11

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J.S. Bach’s Mass in B‐Minor is widely regarded as the greatest and most difficult work of its kind ever written. The reputation held no fears for The King’s Lynn Festival Chorus as they demonstrated in their performance at St Nicholas’ Chapel. The chorus were absolutely on top form. Their entrances were faultless, the discipline and general control was inspiring, and, it must be remembered, that they sang entirely in Latin.

Throughout, they were required to sing in four parts, five parts, six parts and eight parts, and conductor Tom Appleton drew from the great feeling and tonal colours, with attention to dynamics.

They were accompanied by The Meridian Sinfonia, an orchestra brought together especially for the occasion. Their instruments were either historically correct copies of original period instruments or authentic ones from the time that Bach wrote the music.

The team was completed by four soloists of outstanding quality. The horn was required in only one movement but the player contributed a memorable contribution.

Superb describes the performance.

David Johnson, Lynn News, Wednesday 26 October 2011


December 12 2010 A Celebration of Carols, St. Nicholas' Chapel
"Where There's Brass There's A Festive Feeling"

The annual Celebration of Carols is a special seasonal "must" which signalled the start of Christmas for the hundreds who packed the chapel. The choir's new music director, Tom Appleton, put his mark on the occasion and created an impressive opening with the 100‐strong chorus singing from the back of the chapel before processing on to the platform.

One of the highlights of the programme was their performance of Benjamin Britten's 'A Ceremony of Carols', a collection of attractive settings of medieval and 16th century poems, with Melanie Jones playing the harp. Another popular addition was the involvement of Mardi Brass, a versatile and dynamic brass quintet who entertained with a medley of works which sounded particularly effective in the chapel with its wonderful acoustic. The brass players also teamed up with the chorus to perform the quintet's lively and interesting arrangements of popular carols and Christmas songs. It proved a great combination so it was good to learn that early next year they are to record a CD together in the chapel.

The concert concluded with a boisterous rendering of 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas'.

 Alison Croose, Lynn News


November 14th 2010 Monteverdi Vespers, St. Nicholas' Chapel
"A Dramatic Performance with Star Quality"

The 400th anniversary of one of the greatest choral works was marked in great style by King's Lynn Festival Chorus with one of Britain's most acclaimed sopranos as guest soloist. Dame Emma Kirkby added star quality to a memorable occasion as the 100‐strong chorus also joined forces with the splendid voices of soprano Bethany Seymour, tenors Peter Davoren and Matthew Long and bass‐baritones Richard Bannan and Bartholomew Lawrence.

An additional treat was the significant involvement of QuintEssential, 10 early music specialists who play on period instruments. Add to that the chapel's wonderful acoustics and a sell‐out audience of 650 agreed this was a very special occasion.

From the spine‐tingling opening when the chorus and musicians encircled the audience, to the concluding Magnificat, all elements melded perfectly ‐ thanks to the expertise of Tom Appleton, the chorus' music director.

With the choir singing up to eight parts, and the male soloists sometimes out of sight singing in echo, it was a dramatic performance which must have been the biggest challenge yet for the chorus. Tom Appleton raised them to new heights and they came through with full honours

Alison Croose Lynn News


Sunday March 28 2010 New Beginnings King's Lynn Corn Exchange

This was the first concert given by the festival chorus under the direction of new musical director Tom Appleton. Inevitably, a new MD would stamp his signature on the chorus and this was certainly so when Appleton displayed his undoubted talents which have flourished as a chorister at London's St Paul's Cathedral and as a member of the Monteverdi Choir, amongst other groups.

Three pieces of sacred music made up the first half beginning with 'Cantate Domino' by Heinrich Schutz, the conductor immediately drawing from the choir a clarity of brightness and tone. This was followed by 'In the Beginning' by Aaron Copland, being a setting of the story of the Creation. The audience was introduced to American soloist mezzo‐soprano Meg Bragle whose vocal clarity brought out the full meaning of the biblical text.

After the interval, we had songs ranging from one by Henry VIII through others arranged by Ward Swingle to works by Lennon and McCartney. Whatever demands were put on the singers they responded with great verve and enthusiasm. Bragle returned to sing 'Yesterday' displaying how she encompassed the various styles of the songs.

There were also three piano pieces from John Byron, accompanist and assistant MD of the chorus. He revealed a formidable technique and sensitivity with three works by Bach arranged by Rachmaninov, Poulenc and Jacques Loussier. The concert concluded with a superb rendition by the chorus of 'You are the New Day'.

David Johnson, Lynn News, April 2nd 2010

 ***

"Musical Director Has An Inventive Concert Style"

His aim was to make performances exciting and informative, and his debut as the new musical director of the chorus was certainly all that and more. Tom Appleton is obviously intent on making music fun and informal, and in a refreshingly innovative style there was much to amuse and appreciate in this concert from the massed voices of the Kings Lynn Festival Chorus.

In a thoroughly entertaining evening that went by all too quickly, the audience were presented with an eclectic programme that featured music from Bach to the Beatles and from Henry VIII to Copland. And wow, what a wonderful evening it proved to be, with the men and women singers clearly enjoying a programme that was, at times, quite challenging and demanding for amateurs. Mezzo soprano soloist Meg Bragle contributed greatly to the evening.

Mr. Appleton, who conducted the concert, is clearly not frightened of breaking down traditional concert presentation styles with the choir members moving around the auditorium including the side balconies and entering from the rear of the theatre. At one point Mr. Appleton joined the singers for a rest on stage while they listened to the accomplished playing of piano accompanist, John Byron.

In an altogether programme it is difficult to choose favourite items, but I particularly enjoyed Copland's 'In the Beginning', the Ward Swingle arrangements and Blackbird/I will. If this is a new beginning for this talented group of singers, bring it on!

Richard Parr, Eastern Daily Press, 30th March 2010