This delightful and witty programme was very skilfully put together by Musical Director Liz Toye. The seemingly disparate pieces, drawn from varied periods and choral traditions – and involving many different species of animal! – actually complemented one another neatly and contrived to interlink their themes, poetry and musical ideas to form an extremely attractive concert.
The evening began with our first performance of Bob Chilcott’s Aesop’s Fables – an album of five charming, jazz-inspired pieces, including ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, ‘The Fox and the Grapes’ and ‘The Goose and the Swan’. We all very much enjoyed singing them and shall definitely be keeping them in our repertoire.
The emotional highlight of the first half was, of course, the performance of Tavener’s The Lamb and The Tyger. These are challenging paired items which demand fine singing and very accurate intonation. They drew high praise from our audience. Among a number of other lovely choral settings and madrigals, special mention, too, must be made of the virtuoso mini-piano recital by our wonderful accompanist, Jozef Janik – who played five contrasting animal pieces with brilliant style and dashing comedy (including props!).
Our second half opened with some ravishing songs in Welsh: Caneuon Gwerin y Tri Aderyn (Folk Songs of the Three Birds) arranged by Jeffrey Howard. Tenor soloist William Branston continued in similar vein with Y Gylfinir (The Curlew) and then gave a bravura performance of Copland’s cheery I bought me a Cat – before being joined by soprano Kirsty Kinge for The Spider and the Fly. The evening was brought to a hilarious conclusion, both musically and ‘poetically’, in Eric Whitacre’s Animal Crackers Volumes I & II. We have a number of Whitacre items already in our repertoire; his music is always gorgeous and very difficult in equal measure. No one, however, expected the crazy fireworks of these settings of Ogden Nash’s animal rhymes, including ‘The Cow’, ‘The Eel’ and ‘The Kangaroo’. A terrific way to end a great concert!