This was probably the best ever! And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been listening to this choir for many a year now, and the concert in Formby High School was just stunning. It was outstanding.MC Formby
More to follow …
I didn’t get round to writing a review of last June’s Celebrate concert, when the choir dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, waved Union Jack flags with much abandon, and sang enthusiastically and fervently. We were in a new venue – Formby High School. I heard about the politics behind this move, but it proved a successful choice, not least because there was lots of parking within the school grounds.MC
Admittedly it is (only) a school sports hall, but that didn’t matter – the enthusiasm of the choir, the glass of wine when we arrived, and the overall atmosphere all made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Formby Band have changed their name to Liverpool Brass Band, to reflect what (and where) they do most of their playing … but they’ve not changed the standard of their playing. They added greatly to the evening, with a great variety of music.
This concert Celebrate 2, marking the Coronation of King Charles, and was in the Last Night of the Proms model again, and started with some more serious music, admirably performed by the choir, before the flag-waving began in earnest, with things like Jerusalem, and Pomp and Circumstance – leading into Land of Hope and Glory. The visible lightning and distant rumbles of thunder only added more to the atmosphere!
All-in-all, this was a good move – we could hear the choir really, and no-one was hidden behind anyone else (or even behind an immovable pillar), so everyone could see the conductor. I hope we’ll see the choir in the High School again – soon.
I understand why FCS decided to postpone the Missa de Purificationis by Zelenka which had been scheduled – in a bid to reduce the loss that would be incurred by the likelihood of having a reduced audience; and I look forward to hearing it again in the near future. Replacing it with three of Handel’s Coronation Anthems gave the choir a bit more time in rehearsal, and this paid off with exhilarating performances. Following these, the choir was joining by a powerful pair of soloists, in Phil Clieve and Armand Rabot, who were at home in the operatic lyricism of Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. I know it is one of David Holroyd’s favourite, and it is all too rarely performed elsewhere, but this was the second time I have managed to hear it this month. While the soloists have some wonderful moments, the big choral movements, particularly those at the end of the Gloria and the Credo are a real tour de force, and the Choir sang them with panache and enthusiasm, and I loved it!MC
Carols with Brass – it wouldn’t have been the same without Formby Band. For starters it would have been Carols withOUT Brass – and having missed it dreadfully last year – it was so good that FCS could manage to put this together. It felt so good to have the Choral Society and the Band together in Holy Trinity.MC
The audience were given the words of the traditional carols, but there was a reluctance to join in the singing, probably because we were still constrained behind the wretched face covers. But I bet next year we will raise the roof when we get to “O come all ye faithful”.
What a joy it was to see Formby Choral Society back in action! You could have been forgiven for thinking that this first concert since December 2019 might have been a bit shabby. After all, the choir had not been able to meet in person since early March 2020 – and although I believe the ZoomAlong sessions were a great way of keeping in touch with one another, while doing some singing in the privacy of the bedroom, sitting room, dining room … wherever! – it wasn’t the same thing as doing it for real.MC
So I know it was a great relief to be able rehearse again back in September.
The concert for this new beginning was, perhaps appropriately, the same piece that FCS performed at the very first concert ever in 1966 – Vivaldi’s Gloria. Always a popular choice with choirs and audiences, so a good start! Mozart’s lively Coronation Mass formed the second part of the concert, preceded by three movements from his Solemn Vespers. As well as seeing hearing a well-polished and thoroughly rehearsed choir … just like the old days … it was great to see four of the Choral Society’s regular soloists back in action – and nothing had changed here either, they were all in fine voice: Barbara Ruzsics, Joyce Tindsley, Phil Clieve and Stuart O’Hara.
Jon Barton clearly hasn’t let his fingers get rusty, and equally David Holroyd hadn’t lost any of his enthusiastic energy, and as ever demanding the best of his singers – and got it.
All that being said, it was a little sad the choir was a bit fewer in number – but I suspect more singers will return as they find their confidence in venturing out into the new normal.