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Reviews | Formby Choral Society
Concert Reviews
Messiah, November 2019

I've been to every single concert over the last few years, but began to feel I'd used up all the superlatives and words to compliment FCS on each of the succeeding concerts. But how could I
not write something after that performance of Handel's perennial favourite oratorio Messiah. It is a stupendous creation anyway, and all too often suffers through excess exposure by choirs who sing it every single year either before Christmas or Easter. Not so FCS - I believe their last performance was March 2011 - so 8 years on, they come afresh and ready. My usual spies had told me they thought this was going to be good … singers always get a 'feel' as rehearsals move toward the eventual performance. They weren't wrong. But they'd really not realised just HOW good!

From the first, tight, chords of the overture, we knew this orchestra was going to provide a sparkling, sure-footed accompaniment. Then we heard from the first of the four soloists, and realised that we had top-notch professionals lined up. And THEN the choir hit us right between the eyes with
And the glory of the Lord. It was like the previous three movements had wound them up, and then they were released like a coiled spring. The singing was, energetic, rhythmic - oh indeed, rhythmic was probably the word which kept coming to mind. For sure, David Holroyd took an almost invariably brisk tempo - but this was a wise move, given that there was but a single, small cut made to the monumental work. Yet it took only 2 hours 20 minutes - and how quickly that went by. Many in the audience had learned by experience to bring cushions, but I think most sat there wrapt as the performance unfolded in front of them.
Sumer Concert 2015
I do hate it when my spies tell me that a forthcoming concert isn’t going to be up to scratch. But I have learned to ignore their pessimism, and proved optimism has always been rewarded with a most enjoyable performance.

So again with this summer’s concert. The concert brochure for 2014-2015 spoke of a season of contrasts, and the poster for last evening certainly suggested contrast! Handel, Chilcott and Lauridsen don’t sound like a particularly matching trio, and my spies had spoken of the difficulty of swapping from one style to another during rehearsals. Handel’s Coronation Anthems are a “big sing”, Lauridsen’s Lux aeterna tricky by any standards, and although Chilcott’s Little Jazz Mass is tuneful, the harmony is challenging. Nonetheless, I was sure it would work - because FCS’s programming has been inspirational over a good number of years now.

On a lovely evening, an enthusiastic audience at Our Lady’s was hit straight between the eyes with the Choir’s first entry of Zadok - the attack and commitment spoke of their determination to make this a good end to the season!

Wisely, the four Coronation Anthems came in two parts, forming the bread in the musical sandwich!
After the first slice, Jon Barton and David Holroyd gave us an unexpected interlude - as much to give the choir a rest, as to enjoy having two organs, one at either end. First came part of Handel’s Organ Concerto The Cuckoo and the Nightingale. It is such an exciting experience hearing music coming at you from opposite directions.

Then three movements from Lauridsen’s Lux aeterna. I gathered that this had been hard work, and it had been decided to sing only three of the movements. People around me were clearly touched and moved by it, and the choir fully rose to the challenge, singing with conviction and convincingly, even if behind the facade they weren’t unanimously confident!

After a comfort break (a pity that Our Lady’s is not better equipped with the facilities for such a moment!), there was a radical change of style with Bob Chilcott’s Little Jazz Mass - which the choir clearly enjoyed immensely. I suspect they liked it in its own right, and because the Lauridsen was safely under the belt - and lots of positive comments had filtered through to them.

Then another antiphonal performance from the organists - this time Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Jon and David clearly enjoyed themselves, the choir enjoyed watching their two organists duetting, and the audience who were in the best place to get the sound from both directions enjoyed it too.

Then another Coronation Anthem - beautifully sung, even if the least captivating as a work (blame Handel, not FCS), and onto a stunning performance of Widor’s famous Toccata. This was SURROUND SOUND in every sense. I waited for the cracks in the ceiling as both instruments were opened right up, and gave their everything. Unless you’d seen that there were two organists, and been told they were going to play together (rather than antiphonally as before) you wouldn’t have known. It might have been a bit of organistic indulgence, but it went down an absolute storm with the audience, and particularly with the Choir!

And so to conclude; The King shall rejoice. And well he might have done with a performance like this. FANTASTIC.

I wonder if my spies will be wrong again. I guess they will.
This was a wonderful concert. Thank you everyone.

MC, Liverpool

Una, Alana and I enjoyed the concert so much last night. Despite singing in the choir, I don’t think members ever quite get how good the choir is until they are forced to sit in the audience. The staging works really well, and visibility is good. Apart from the section hidden by the conductor, everyone can be seen. The choir members were very attentive, engaged, even smiling, appeared to be watching you. It was all very impressive, although the highlight had to be Widor Toccata. Fantastic.
Rosalind McGonagle
The Lauridsen was stunning, I’d have come for that alone.
Adrian Ball
I really enjoyed the concert. It was the first one I’ve been to; it was wonderful and I’ll certainly go again. Give my thanks to the choir if you can, and the organists too.