UCS Concert – Review

Lux Aeterna

Uttoxeter Choral Society’s June 17th Summer Concert of modern American music, under the leadership of talented conductor Jakob Grubbström, began with this abstract from the traditional Roman Catholic Mass, written by Morten Lauridsen. The piece is generally slow and measured, having an almost ‘ocean wave’ structure, moving easily from the crescendo of the breaking wave to the subsequent quiet of the receding water. Another challenging piece, once again proving the choir’s ability to swiftly overlay the various voices, as called upon by the musical score.

Following the solemnity of the opening item, the music’s mood was lightened by three items from American musicals, sung by the evening’s soloist Grace Bermingham.

Grace’s lovely high soprano (with actions!) lifted ‘I Could have Danced All Night’, from Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady’ to new heights! Supported by guest accompanist Anders Winterstam on piano, Grace continued with ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess; and ended with Jerome Kern’s, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man…’ from Showboat…all endearing her to the audience!

Closing the first half of the programme was Samual Barber’s music to ‘Sure on This Shining Night’ which takes its lyrics from a poem by James Agee which invokes a ‘wanderlust’ in the writer. The music is beautifully melodic, for the most part carried by the ladies of the choir, with underlying accompaniment from the tenors and basses (who also have their turn with the melody).

After the interval, the concert restarted with three items from Eric Whiteacre’s ‘Animal Crackers’ volume One. As the title suggests, these items are not intended to be taken too seriously.. unlike the very popular ‘Seal Lullaby’ by the same composer. This is all that a lullaby should be – sweet and gentle, just right for singing to baby!!

Another reflective item, ‘Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round’, John White Chadwick’s 19th century words, set to a lovely melody by Libby Larsen. A beautiful hymn, originally set to music by 16th century composer Orlando Gibbons.

The final items comprised the traditional Gospel piece ‘Down in the River to Pray’, and another version of James Agee’s poem, this time to music composed by Morten Lauridsen.

Preceding these items Anders Winterstam, (with conductor Jakob Grubbström turning the pages) pressed the organ into musical gymnastics with ‘Souvenir’ by John Cage! This avant gard composition consisted mostly of six note runs on the flutes interspersed with deep animal like growls from the pedalboard….interesting!

As with all good concerts, this also had a rousing finish. This in the form of ‘How Great Thou Art,’ as interpreted by New York composer Dan Forrest, and a demonstration of the power of the Uttoxeter Choral Society choir in full flight!

The choir, augmented with tenor and bass voices and soprano Grace Bermingham was accompanied throughout the concert, both on piano and organ, by highly regarded Swedish organist Anders Winterstam.

Anthony Fellows 2017

Thanks to Mary Pollard UCS secretary for sending this in. Mary added :-

“The Uttoxeter Choral Society will be singing Evensong on Sunday 1st October and on Saturday 2nd December Advent music in the United Reformed Church.  Do come along.”


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