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Spring Concert - Sunday, 26th March 2023

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Remember not, Lord, our offences
Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes
O Sing unto the Lord a new song


Dido and Aeneas

Review by Areti Lymperopoulou

It was a delight to see the Rosenethe Singers in the Church of the Holy Rude, under the expert direction of Kevin Duggan. The programme comprised entirely of music by Henry Purcell and the choir were complimented by a string ensemble and a truly fine array of solo singers, with Kevin Duggan directing mostly from the harpsichord.

Remember not, O Lord, our Offences
 

This poignant anthem was sung with confidence and clarity. The choral sound was well blended, with good diction and a very good sense of style. The rich harmonies were conveyed well and communicated the character of this miniature masterpiece very successfully, which was very indicative of Kevin Duggan’s tasteful interpretational choices.

 

Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes
 

What a pleasure to listen to this setting of Psalm 3, which encapsulates the essence of the Baroque style and is an excellent showcase of Purcell’s musical genius. The pioneering chromatic language of the first section would not have been out of place in the late 19th century and presents a real challenge for any choir. As for the solo tenor and bass passages and subsequent dance-like choral episodes, they could have easily come from an opera.

 

The Rosenethe were more than up to the task at hand and executed the anthem with conviction and good overall balance. The occasional intonation mishaps and the resulting momentary faltering in the singers’ confidence did not detract from the intensity of performance.

 

The guest soloists David Douglas and Phil Gault added their exquisite timbres to the texture, by performing the tenor and bass solos respectively with great flair and virtuosity.

O Sing unto the Lord a new song
 

The choir gave a moving performance of this piece which demonstrates Purcell’s integration of Italian Baroque elements into his own musical sound world.

 

There was very good dynamic range and variety of choral tone; the very warm expressive moments of the anthem were well contrasted by the lighter and upbeat passages. Ryan Webber performed the prominent bass solo with confidence and a lovely tone, and the duet and quartets drawn from the choir roster were well matched and sang with great conviction.

 

The four string players, Frances Pryce, Katrina Bateman, Alison Hastie and Aline Gow accompanied the vocalists with brilliant energy and sensitivity.

Dido and Aeneas
 

After a very short interval in the concert, came the highlight of this evening in Purcell’s only true opera, based on Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid, with the libretto by Nahum Tate.

 

The choir sang in top form and showed off their thorough knowledge of the work by singing mostly off-copy and incorporating movement to their performance. The semi-staged presentation of the opera was a treat for the audience and managed to provide an immersive experience despite the lack of costumes or a set, which constitutes a real feat.

 

All the choruses were sung with confidence and clear diction. We witnessed great range of vocal colours and moods, conveyed purely from the varying tone of the choir, from the sinister laughter of “Ho ho ho” in the Witches’ chorus, to the inebriated merriment of the Sailors’ chorus and the mournful sonorities of the closing With drooping wings.

 

The four guest soloists graced the stage area with their presence and superb artistic skill. Ulrike Wutscher and Phil Gault gave highly evocative performances in the title roles – and Colleen Nicoll excelled as Belinda. David Douglas was the Sorcerer and Sailor – when he appeared as the latter, he ingeniously opted for presenting his character drunk and with a strong Scottish accent, much to the audience’s amusement.

 

The choir members who contributed to the cast with the supporting roles should also be commended for performing convincingly and with commitment to a high standard.

 

The instrumental playing remained true to the Baroque style, with clean and expertly shaped contrapuntal lines, elegant ornamentation and minimal vibrato from the strings.

 

Kevin Duggan is worthy of the highest praise for his masterful continuo realisation on the harpsichord, which he managed to combine with very effective direction of all the singers and players, a testament to his excellent knowledge of the period’s performance practice.

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