Bury Choral Society

1st March 2016. Shakespeare and Cervantes

What an outstanding performance at the United Reformed Church on Tuesday, 1st March – yet another evening with a difference. It was a stimulating occasion which fully displayed Bury Choral Society as a choir of note. This was choral singing at its best, all voices blending and making an excellent ensemble under the direction of Juan Ortuño.

Solo singers, actors and choir portrayed extracts from the pens of Shakespeare and Cervantes, 400 years on.  Narrations provided amusing lesser-­‐known facts about the lives of these two men, and theatre graduates Alicia Marsden and Dominic Myerscough enacted Shakespeare’s lovers’ tiffs with skilful humour. The Bard’s lovers, fairies and soft moonlight contrasted with Cervantes’s admiration for leadership and bravery no doubt seen during his military career and somewhat chequered life.

Jonathan Gort (baritone) sang It was a Lover and His Lass (Finzi) with a well tuned voice and good attention to detail. In a Spanish carol Laura Wood (mezzo soprano) poignantly mourned the sadness of the death of Christ at the end of a life of love for mankind. She has a fine outstanding voice and should go far in her career. The experience of John Elliott showed in his expressive singing and facial expressions, creating clear engagement with the audience. His diction and tuning were perfect and he was a joy to hear. The varied programme entertained us with a reading in Spanish (by Juan, fluently of course) of Cervantes’s poem Gypsies Dance, about a queen’s jealousy of a gypsy girl.

Providing the accompaniment, Jonathan Ellis was at his usual brilliant scintillating and versatile best along with the admirable Bury Camerata string ensemble, who treated us to Cervantes’s imaginative The Attack of the Windmills (Telemann) from the Don Quixote suite.

The choir is singing equally well with softness or strength as required in the gentleness of the sonnets and the sympathy required by the Three Epitaphs. In Don Quixote the tenors seemed hesitant but gave a solid sound. If they could find more tenors, then that would be icing on the cake. It was noted that some choir members, both ladies and gentlemen, were looking down at their copies almost all the time, and some small errors were noticed because of this.

In Windsor Forest was the place for ladies to become conspirators and nasty fairies to Falstaff, and where the men raised the roof with a brilliant rendition of the drinking song. The choir sang the beautiful Wedding Chorus with gentleness and softness comparing “my lady” with the softness of swansdown and “the fall of the snow before the soil hath smutched it”.

Bury Choral Society is making a name for lively and entertaining programmes which appeal to lovers of lighter music, but still retains its 180-­‐year-­‐old reputation for excellent oratorio presentations.  This was again a concert I am glad I did not miss.