Patron - Jennifer Hewitson

Reviews

Spring Concert

Saturday 20 May 2017 at 7:30pm.
The Ballroom, Herstmonceux Castle

AANNA COLLS SINGERS AT THE CASTLE

The Aanna Colls Singers frequently perform at Eastbourne's All Saints Church; but on May 20th 2017 they were at the beautiful Herstmonceux Castle. The Castle is now a residential study centre for Canadian university students, and itself has a strong music school, so there is a large concert grand in the elegant space where concerts take place.

Aanna is herself a singer, composer and conductor. Her choir on this occasion numbered just twenty, comprising twelve sopranos and altos, eight tenors and basses. Colin Hughes was the accompanying pianist, and in addition the solo violinist. John Ross was in command of the harmonium. Aanna conducted a demanding concert to such effect that all convention was ignored, as the large audience broke into spontaneous applause even between movements.

The evening began with Lux Aeterna, composed by Aanna herself in 2000. She had re-scored the original flute part for tonight's violin. This ten-minute gem instantly demonstrated that the singers were on their best form, while Colin's soaring violin and John's organ-like accompaniment proved ideal. Having now heard this fine “opener” more than once, I hope it will find a place in the regular repertoire of other choirs.

Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle occupied most of the remaining evening, both before and after an interval. It is not a pure Mass, and it's certainly not solemn: but it is pure Rossini: a joy to perform, and a joy to hear. Many choirs avoid it because it demands some able soloists (that can prove expensive!); but Aanna's choir has made such progress in some twenty years of performing that individual choristers were well able to inhabit the solos.

A rhythmic piano led the choir into the opening Kyrie, Gloria and Laudamus. Well-satisfied with her singers, Aanna then deserted the podium to sing alto in the operatic Gratias, with Peter Alexander (tenor) and David Irvine (bass). Who needs visiting soloists? And that view was confirmed as Greg Crittall's brilliant, natural tenor voice sang the Domine.

Qui Tollis might have been a problem, because soprano Lindsey Bish was indisposed. But with alto Becky Anstey in the choir, problem solved. Hers is a superb voice, under complete control, and no soprano top note was going to worry her. With Sonia Ward this duet was a real high-spot, and the applause was spontaneous.

And so it was throughout this exciting work. Bernard Perkins (bass), Tricia Roussel and Josie Pickering (sopranos),in their respective solos, indeed more than half the choir demonstrated their ability to sing quartet passages with accuracy and ringing tone. John Ross had a short solo too, and Colin Hughes a chance to take the concert grand to its limit. And, all the while, the choir's secure performance brought all these solo passages into sharp focus. It was appropriate that Becky Anstey should reign over the concluding Agnus Dei. Soaring aloft or delving into the deep, her control and the beauty of her sound would undoubtedly have brought her a few parts had Rossini still been alive to hear her.

This wonderful evening ended with Aanna's musical setting of a poem ”Hope” by Nick Walker, the son of a choir-member and sung by her. It was, as one had come to expect, sung with true involvement by her and the choir, whose next appearance at the Castle will be Carols on December 17th.

Robin Gregory

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Autumn Concert

Saturday 31 October 2015 at 7:30pm.
All Saints Church, Eastbourne, BN21 4HR

SUPERB MUSIC-MAKING AT ALL SAINT'S CHURCH

The Aanna Colls Singers made a triumphant come-back at All Saints in Carlisle Road on October 31st. The programme was a blend of familiar and virtually unknown music. Twenty-two singers, a small orchestra, piano and organ were conducted by Aanna herself. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Berwick Smith, Joy Doling and John Gibbs, and supported the work of the Alzheimer's Society. The printed programme was, as ever, a work of art by Rosemary Morris.

Fauré's Requiem has become a favourite work, but this performance made one realize again what a magical composition it is. The relatively small forces carried no passengers. Every singer and every instrumentalist displayed an involved commitment which was balanced perfectly by the conductor. The solo baritone part was divided between two mellifluous choir-members; and the solo soprano's melting Pié Jesu was sensitively sung by tenor Paul Doling in memory of his mother.

Orchestra-leader Eloise Prowse was able to sit motionless for much of the Requiem, because Fauré favoured the lower strings. When she did play, she soared effortlessly into the stratosphere, like an angel hovering over a heavenly sound-world. So it was no surprise that her performance of the second item in the programme, Delius' Légende, was finely executed. The work was written in 1895, so is virtually contemporaneous with the Fauré Requiem. Eloise and pianist Bernard King made a strong case for it being in every violinist's repertoire. They brought-out to perfection that special Delius skill of seeming to “go nowhere, but beautifully”.

After the interval it was music by 37 year-old Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-Lo), a Norwegian composer resident in the U.S.A. His “Sunrise Mass” had been performed in 2014 at the Carnegie Hall, but was quite new to me and most of the audience. It's a choral work lasting about as long as the Fauré, and in the event proved to be immensely listenable. Although it is a setting of the Latin Mass, it carries four subtitles: ‘The Spheres’, ‘Sunrise’ (which gives the work its title), ‘The City’, and ‘Identity and the Ground’. I could not find any link between these inner titles and the words of the Mass, but the music was ravishing and did reflect the four English headings. And very difficult! No problem for the Aanna Colls Singers, nor for the augmented orchestra. (I noticed Colin Hughes, whose work on the magnificent All Saints organ had been a feature in the Fauré, playing his violin as to the manner born.) Other choirs should try this fascinating work, assuming they are up to it. It's a winner, in my book.

Summing up? Simply, an evening to remember, and a mighty round of applause.

ROBIN GREGORY

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WW1 Centenary Commemoration Concert

Saturday 10 May 2014 at 7:30pm.
All Saints Church, BN21 4HE, Eastbourne

Centenary Concert by Aanna Colls Singers

The Aanna Colls Singers concert at All Saints Church, Eastbourne on Saturday 10th May commemorated the outbreak of the Great War a hundred years ago. It did so in a practical as well as a musical way, by supporting the Help for Heroes charity, H4H.

The handsome and instructive printed programme was compiled by Rosemary Morris. The chosen music was extremely varied and demanding, but Aanna Colls's hand-picked choir of some two dozen singers responded with its usual skill, confidence and beauty of tone.

Vivaldi's setting of the Nicene Creed is in four short movements. The orchestra, led by Christian Halstead, provided a rich and appropriate accompaniment, using modern instruments. The fine harpsichord playing of David Force added weight and delicacy as demanded. The choir responded to every demand of Aanna's beat.

Elgar's ‘The Spirit of England’ was first heard during the war in 1917, and from it the choir sang ‘For the Fallen’, a setting of Binyon's now-famous poem “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old”. No orchestra this time, as David Force from the organ-loft accompanied the choir and tenor Paul Doling. Paul's stentorian tones filled All Saints with ease.

When the Londonderry Air crept out of an Irish mist in the nineteenth century, it was hailed as one of the world's most beautiful tunes. Many writers struggled to find words appropriate to the treasure; but it was West Country lawyer Fred Weatherly who came up with a winner: ‘Danny Boy’. It deserves to be treated well. Far too many performances try "improvements". The words are often treated with disdain. So it was a joy to hear the tune given a loving performance by four of the orchestra's string-players; and then to hear the words projected perfectly by the lovely singing voice of Sonia Ward. Aanna became her pianist.

‘Flanders Field’ is a poem written by eleven year-old Jack Adelston. Aanna Colls made a musical setting of it, which was performed by her Singers and half a dozen children, with soloists Greg Crittall and David Irvine. Fabian Edwards beat the drum; David Force played the organ. This is a moving work, which in this fine performance suggested that many a choir might well take it into their repertoire.

The second half brought Durufl&eactue;'s Requiem. Dating from 1947, it looks back to early plainchant, and requires strong vocal and orchestral resources who can cope with its complex changes of time-signature and mood. Outstanding were the three trumpets of Steve Hollamby, Marcus Plant and Dean Pelling; the soloists – Fran Collins and Bernard Perkins; the orchestral strings; and the well-rehearsed and confident Singers. To say that we had a fine performance is an understatement.

ROBIN GREGORY

Autumn Concert 2013

Saturday 19 October 2013 at 7:30pm.
All Saints Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne

FRENCH FLAVOUR TO COUNTERPOINT'S CONCERT

Aanna Colls is a singer, conductor, teacher and composer who worked in France for some years, and the programme chosen for her Singers on Saturday 19th October (at All Saints Church) reflected her continental connections. Of the five works performed, three were by French composers. This particular concert raised money for a prostate cancer charity (Prostate Cancer UK), in memory of Chris Walker, a former member of the choir who died of the disease.

Hers is a small choir of some twenty singers, but that in no way diminishes the impact of their presentations. One knows that her meticulous rehearsal and intelligent choice of repertoire will produce an exceptional experience, with, for example, the choir always able to sing a perfect pianissimo without fading into a set of isolated individual voices.

Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine was given a delicate, meditative performance entirely suited to this short early masterpiece. Berlioz followed: his Shepherd's Farewell was ideally suited to the choir's intelligent, controlled style.

An innovation that worked perfectly was the introduction, at that point in the concert, of a movement from an oboe concerto by Mozart. Peter Walker (Chris's brother) coaxed a ravishing sound from his instrument in the Adagio from K314. Many will know this music performed on the flute; but in 1920 a score discovered in Salzburg proved that it was originally intended for oboe. We longed to hear the other movements. (Hint!) Rosemary Kemp, piano, stood in well for the orchestra.

Aanna had re-worked her own Lux Aeterna for this performance, setting it for double choir and oboe, again played by Peter Walker. This wonderful work, especially in its new guise, deserves to be more widely known. It has a French feel about it: all shimmering light, and elusive melodies that seem to float in from some distant shore. So much is packed into its twelve or so minutes that I can see it becoming part of a longer work, some day, assuming Aanna can make time in an already very full musical schedule. (Hint no.2!)

Fauré's Requiem was a predictable choice for Part Two. What was not predictable was the use of a very new performing version by David Hill, for chamber choir, violin, cello, harp and organ. In so committed a performance it was a revelation. David Force was in the organ loft, as musical and attentive as ever. Christian Halstead (violin), Esther Ward Caddle (cello) and Jane Lister (harp) were persuasive exponents of this (to me) new look at Fauré's best-known work. Two baritones and one soprano from the choir took the solo parts with insight and control: who needs to spend money on star interpreters except, perhaps, in the Albert Hall or on a recording?

As always, Rosemary Morris provided a packed and informative printed programme.

ROBIN GREGORY

Autumn Concert

Saturday 20 October 2012 at 7:00pm.
All Saints Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne

The Brahms German Requiem
A performance of the whole work by THE AANNA COLLS SINGERS
with FRANCIS RAYNER and BERNARD KING on two pianos

Review by Lars Forslund:

The Brahms German Requiem
performed in German language with English translation
Saturday, October 20th, 2012, at 7.45pm
at All Saints Church, Carlisle Road, Eastbourne
in support of St Wilfrid's Hospice

In my home country, Sweden, it is often said that Englishmen are always so polite and friendly and this was very true in this case - when I stepped into the All Saints Church in Eastbourne, so I felt immediately an incredible joy and friendship. The audience was warmly welcomed with a glass of wine and some snacks and you instantly felt a warm generosity and a lovely community in mingling with the church hosts and churchgoers.

Then the chorus came in and took their seat in the chancel of the church. With expectant ears, I sat there in the pew and wondered how the chorus would sound. So at last began the concert with The Aanna Colls Singers with Francis Rayner and Bernard King on two pianos and Aanna Colls conducting. The program was the Brahms German Requiem for chorus, soloists and two grand pianos.

From the first note it was noticeable that the two fantastically talented pianists on their two grand pianos and the very good choir were of the professional class and I understood immediately that this was going to be a musical highlight.

Gradually appeared also the choir's own soloists showing a very high standard. The charismatic conductor, Aanna Colls, spread light and heat, and treated the whole choral work with deep human intimacy on both the musical and the psychological level as she sensitively listened to the extraordinarily talented pianists and soloists while she conducted the choir with a sure hand.

Aanna Colls did exactly what was needed to be done to get the agility and the feeling of that music and singing all the time progressed. She treated the rhythm and phrasing so that both text and music became interesting for the listener and she gave exactly enough freedom to the soloists and the two pianists to really make music.

To tell a musical story such as a requiem or an oratorio requires great artistic ability and Aanna Colls shows she has. The choir behaved excellently and the sound was well balanced and each part went clear in the fine acoustics of the church.

The accompaniment by the two virtuoso pianists Francis Rayner and Bernard King was spirited and sensitive, and the acoustics produced a robust, present sound, perfectly right for this music.

Lars Forslund, Artistic Director
VIVALDI FESTIVAL
www.vivaldifestival.com

Diamond Jubilee Concert

Sunday 29 April 2012 at 3:00pm.
All Saints Church, Herstmonceux

Diamond Jubilee Concert
All Saints Church, Herstmonceux

HERSTMONCEUX CELEBRATES DIAMOND JUBILEE IN SONG

ROBIN GREGORY REVIEWS concert by Aanna Colls Singers

The Aanna Colls Singers have built such a secure reputation (rumour has it they are soon to perform in Venice) that they can count on filling even the somewhat inaccessible All Saints Church in Herstmonceux. On Sunday April 29th their concert there included music ranging from Purcell (born 1659) to Mealor (born 1975), most of it having some connection with royalty. The choir of some twenty experienced vocalists included names closely associated with music-making in the area: baritone David Irvine, for instance, is masterminding the astonishing Meads Festival which, on Sundays in May, will bring the great international pianist Lars Vogt and Glyndebourne tenor Allan Clayton to Eastbourne’s Birley Centre; and organist David Force is Head of Academic Music at Eastbourne College. But first and foremost the Singers are so well-balanced and tightly rehearsed that even this complex programme could not find them lacking in any vocal department. Their command of both volume and tonal beauty enabled them to fill the church, involving even those members of the audience who were so placed that they could not actually see the choir.

As is always the case with Counterpoint Arts events, the printed programme was filled with detailed analysis and helpful background information, whether the music was familiar or little-known. Throughout, the conductor (Aanna herself) could count on the Singers to give her all she demanded, whether in the opening I Was Glad (Parry, 1902), in Fauré’s early Cantique de Jean Racine (1865), or in Musick’s Jubilee (Carter, 1993), with its modern harmonies and infectious rhythms. Two works had been written specially for the William-Kate wedding: Ubi Caritas by Paul Mealor, and John Rutter’s This is the Day, and it was a thrill to hear these contrasted works receive another, and local, outing. If two items had to be singled out as bringing the absolute best from the Choir, they would be the Fauré Cantique and one of Vaughan Williams’s ravishing Mystical Songs. Both were impeccably accompanied by Francis Rayner at the piano, whose delicacy and rhythmicality matched the choir’s. Counterpoint are indeed fortunate to have him as their “house” pianist.

Music by Elgar, Tavener and Brahms fared well too. The Tavener Song for Athene will forever be associated with Princess Diana’s funeral, and thus seemed exceptionally moving in a fine, unaccompanied performance. The excerpt from Brahms’s German Requiem made those in the know look forward to a coming performance of the whole work by the Singers in the near future. Even the two items in which the choir was joined by the audience sounded better than one might have expected. A fine preparation indeed for the celebrations to come.

Autumn Concert

Sunday 6 November 2011 at 3:00pm.
All Saints Chapel, Darley Road, Eastbourne

Autumn Concert
All Saints Chapel, Eastbourne

GOUNOD FEVER HITS EASTBOURNE

Charles Gounod may be somewhat out of fashion nowadays; but two major performances of his works arrived in Eastbourne recently at the same time. However, I was well-rewarded with his St Cecilia Mass, performed by the impeccable Singers conducted by Aanna Colls.

In fact I enjoyed rather more than a single work, for Aanna began her enterprising programme with Janacek's exquisite setting of The Lord's Prayer. This 18-minute gem is performed but rarely, because in addition to the difficulties of the choral passages it includes brief solos which are beyond the capabilities of most amateur choirs, whose finances don't run to professional soloists for so short a work. Fortunately even Aanna's tenors are well up to the challenge, and the fine organist David Force and sensitive harpist Helen Arnold were on top form. So the afternoon got off to a perfect start.

Helen then played Fileuse by Hasselmans, letting its melody rise gradually from her cascading arpeggios as she painted a sound picture of a spinning wheel at work. This was followed by the first two movements of Gounod's Mass, in which the choral line remained superbly held. In the Gloria, the solos for tenor, bass and soprano were clearly etched against the choral sound.

This was a very suitable point to place the Interval, after which the Credo (with harp and organ) made a strong impact, especially during the Crucifixus section where solos are, as it were, thrown round the choir. Then, in the Offertory, David Force was able to entice some delicate sounds from the organ, before the final movements of the Latin Mass proceeded towards the work's conclusion. There was a good high-bass solo to start the Benedictus, and each choral section was beautifully balanced. Aanna Colls and her Singers drew well-deserved applause, some of which surely was meant for Rosemary Morris who compiled yet another informative and helpful programme.

ROBIN GREGORY

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Summer Concert

Wednesday 20 July 2011 at 7:30pm.
Herstmonceux Castle

Summer Concert
Herstmonceux Castle

ROBIN GREGORY enjoys a magical evening

Around teatime on Wednesday July 20th the weather changed. The persistent wind ceased. On Eastbourne's seafront the huge union flag hung motionless. The sea was calmed. A faint, almost imperceptible drizzle refreshed but did not dampen either clothes or spirits. The idea of a concert at the nearby fairytale Castle of Herstmonceux seemed alluring.

That same evening the magic was even more palpable as one crossed the stone bridge and went through the courtyard gardens. The massed flowers glistened with their welcome dew. The atmosphere affected everyone. Strangers chatted; and, when I found I had insufficient ready change to order two glasses of interval wine, two prepayment tickets were forced upon me. Weather like that could stop wars.

Certainly it got to the performers. Aanna Colls's gifted singers have never been better. The soloists gave of their best. Even the applause had a special ring under the gently-curved ceiling of the ballroom. Some of the items performed had been used at the closing concert given by the choir at the Meads Music Festival; some were new. The range of music was immense: from the thirteenth century Sumer is icumen in to John Rutter's 1995 tribute to great, blind jazz pianist George Shearing. Most of the music was as English as the setting: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Sullivan, Delius; but Debussy, Brahms, Chopin and Denza were allowed their moments.

Many choirs look as if they are enjoying themselves. In the Eastbourne area we are fortunate that most can sing as well; and under Aanna Colls's direction her small choir is beautifully balanced and capable of exquisite tone. This was seen in four RVW and two Elgar songs, and especially in the offstage unaccompanied Delius To be sung of a Summer night on the water. The Rutter Birthday Madrigals saw not only the choir but the pianist (Francis Rayner) and bassist (David Force) in fine form. Elgar's The Snow had a delicious obbligato played by violinist Anna Liza Rogers. Hugely entertaining was A Cycle round Britain by Goff Richards, a series of arrangements of folksongs ranging from the Londonderry Air (words by Fred Weatherly – Danny Boy) which was sung unaccompanied, to Strawberry Fair where the breathtaking piano accompaniment was delivered with panache by Francis Rayner. This talented pianist was given three much-appreciated solo spots: Debussy's Clair de Lune, Brahms's Second Rhapsody and Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu.

This was truly an evening to banish the cares of the day.

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Meads Festival

Sunday 29 May 2011 at 3:00pm.
All Saints Hospital Chapel, Meads, Eastbourne

Meads Festival
All Saints Hospital Chapel, Meads, Eastbourne

TRIUMPHANT MEADS FESTIVAL ENDS ON A HIGH NOTE

ROBIN GREGORY hears final concert in beautiful All Saints Chapel

May 2011 had five Sundays, and each was enriched by the musical delights to be had in a setting which most similar festivals could only envy. The Festival Directors, David Irvine and Ian Julier, devised a programme which began with a great international baritone, then presented in order : a young pianist of infinite promise; a soprano who will certainly be a name on everyone's lips before long; a string quartet whose members sound as good as they look; and (on May 29th) a small choir in which even the tenors are first-rate.

The Aanna Colls Singers' well-chosen programme demonstrated that nineteen artists who know their craft and have an insightful conductor can out-sing most vast choral societies, especially in the magical atmosphere of Eastbourne's precious Victorian former-chapel, All Saints in Meads. All the accompaniments were in the hands of pianist Francis Rayner, whose support and musicality never failed. Unaccompanied items stayed unerringly in tune, and the balance between sections of the choir was unfailingly right. Almost every item was in English, and a goodly proportion of the words was heard, though in the resonant building it would have been helpful had crib-sheets been available.

Of Moeran's seven unaccompanied Songs of Springtime from 1934 we heard three, with words by Fletcher, Herrick and Shakespeare. Ideal performances made one long to hear the entire group. Elgar died the year Moeran's Songs were published, and his genius as a songwriter was aptly demonstrated in The Snow and Fly, singing bird with words by Alice, his wife. The tricky piano-parts were expertly despatched by Francis Rayner, and a delightful violin obbligato was provided by Anna Liza Rogers, a music scholar at Eastbourne College.

The Five Negro Spirituals of Tippett really displayed the brilliance of the choir, as they emerged as soloists from the body of singers. Tenors and sopranos soared heavenward with alternate power and delicacy: perhaps the highspot of a remarkably varied programme which even included Andrew Carter's arrangement of I do like to be beside the seaside. This was an evening for all lovers of fine singing, who should be sure not to overlook the recital by one of England's most accomplished young sopranos, Anna Goodhew, at the Under Ground Theatre (beneath the Library) on June 16th. A Summer concert by the Aanna Colls Singers will take place on July 20th at Herstmonceux Castle. Meanwhile, hearty congratulations to everyone involved in Meads. You have set the barrier high indeed.

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A Feast of English Music

Saturday 9 April 2011 at 7:30pm.
All Saints Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne

A Feast of English Music
All Saints Church, Eastbourne

ROBIN GREGORY reviews SPRING CONCERT BY AANNA COLLS SINGERS

The Eastbourne area has several fine choral societies. The Aanna Colls Singers are unusual in being relatively few, but they more than make up for their smaller numbers. Their close ties to their trainer and conductor Aanna Colls (a distinguished mezzo soprano with whom many of them study the singing art) enable them to undertake works which might over-tax many a group. On April 9th in All Saints Church they showed precisely what this tight musical organisation can achieve.

The opening work Blest Pair of Sirens by late-Victorian Parry is a good, old-fashioned “sing” in which the choir showed its ability to attack the music as required, here powerful, there sensitive, always in tune, and with words as audible as the composer allowed. David Force at the organ lived up to his name and reputation. The contrasting Ave Verum by Byrd (born 1543) enabled eight choir members to project this exquisite early English music perfectly, the two sopranos so much better than the usual choirboys we hear in this motet.

Britten's fiendishly difficult unaccompanied Hymn to St Cecilia sent everyone out for the interval either marvelling that they had heard so rare a performance, or revising their prejudice that Britten is “too modern for me”. Even some of Auden's strange words were audible. So it was no surprise that the second half, which was mainly Elgar, was a connoisseur's delight.

Song for Athene by Tavener (our modern musical knight) and Finzi's Lo the full, final sacrifice framed the three Elgar items. Tavener was unaccompanied; Finzi had David Force again in fine form. Gerald Finzi (unlike Britten) seldom pulled the natural rhythm of the language about in his settings; and as a result we heard most of Crashaw's words. The choral sound here was as good as in the three Elgar works. One hesitates to pick out individuals from the choir which is so much a unit, but sopranos Lindsey Kirkbright Bish and Gabrielle Manoukian cannot escape a brief spotlight.

A Feast of English Music
All Saints Church, Eastbourne

A stroke of genius was to give pianist, Francis Rayner, four solos, which were delivered with delicate artistry. John Field's Fifth Nocturne made us realize how much Chopin owed to this Dubliner. Our local composer Bridge was represented by Rosemary. Elgar's Salut d'amour and Bantock's Song to the Seals (forever associated with John McCormack) made a delicious confection, impeccably served.

As usual with this choir, we had “firm but friendly” direction by a conductor who really knows what she wants, and how to get it. The programme-notes (put together by Rosemary Morris) were, as ever, a model of information and presentation. I am delighted to see that this group of singers will be taking part in the coming first Meads Music Festival, where they will be performing in All Saints Chapel (handsomely renovated in Meads) on Sunday May 29th. Don't miss them !

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The Fauré Requiem

Saturday 9 October 2010 at 7:30pm.
St Saviour's Church, Eastbourne

The Fauré Requiem
St Saviour's Church, Eastbourne

MUSIC WITH FIRE AND FIREWORKS

ROBIN GREGORY welcomes leaner and brighter Aanna Colls Singers

Aanna Colls was the musical mind behind the Counterpoint Choir, many of whose past Eastbourne concerts it has been my pleasure to report. On October 9th she returned to St Saviour's Church as conductor of music by Fauré, Bach and Bruckner. The concert brought together, under their new name, eighteen of her best singers, a small orchestra led by Stephen Giles, and organist David Force, Head of Academic Music at Eastbourne College.

The opening movement from Bach's Magnificat showed immediately that an eighteen-strong choir, if well-chosen and properly trained, can make far more impact than fifty enthusiasts of whom half have missed most of the rehearsals. Six sopranos, five altos, three tenors and four baritones filled the lofty church with balanced sound, and the fine organ was clearly in good hands.

The Fauré Requiem
St Saviour's Church, Eastbourne

Fauré's youthful Cantique de Jean Racine demonstrated the beautiful soft tone of which the singers and the seven-piece orchestra were capable, so it was no surprise to discover that in five little-known (and exceedingly demanding) Bruckner Motets every musical hurdle was cleared with polished ease. The conductor had arranged an alternation of accompanied and unaccompanied pieces, but (unless David Force is the world's greatest transposer) the singers never drifted off-key.

After the interval, Fauré's Requiem was given an insightful performance disturbed only by the unwelcome crashing which too often passes for a firework display somewhere in Eastbourne at inappropriate dates and times. Fortunately by the time Lisa Wigmore's violin was soaring in the Sanctus, peace had returned. The small orchestra was capable of rising impressively to the Requiem's two crescendos, and the solos were beautifully sung by two members of the choir: David Irvine and Gabriella Manoukian. The whole evening was a tribute to the organising genius of Aanna Colls and administrator Rosemary Morris. The printed Programme was a model of information and presentation. This was an evening to cherish.