This was the second time that Cantorum had held a Valentines dinner concert at the Odney Club. (The previous occasion was in February 2015, our Valentines event being biennial.)
The Odney venue is extremely attractive, offering us a modern, purpose-built banqueting area under a high, curved and acoustically sensitive ceiling with recessed lighting. This is in a module just adjacent to the C18th country house and riverside gardens. Guests to our concert were feasted with a dinner prepared and served by John Lewis’s own catering staff. Between courses, the choir sang two sets of appropriately ‘romantic’ music—a full concert’s repertoire, in effect. The first, just after the main course, was especially significant in that it featured a piece by our new Composer in Residence, Alexander Campkin. True Love was first written for his own wedding and was an obvious choice for the occasion. It goes without saying that we look forward very much to working with Alex and to performing the new work we are currently commissioning from him. The remaining first half items included, among a mix of quite ‘serious’ items, a choral love tale by Mendelssohn and two of George Shearing’s famous jazz settings of Shakespeare. (The enduring favourite of both the choir and our audiences is Shearing’s gorgeous Who is Sylvia?) The second set, served after the dessert, was a chance to let our musical hair down. There were favourites from the Beach Boys and The Beatles and also delicious choral versions of The Girl from Ipanema, and Bridge over Troubled Water together with some Sinatra standards. The evening rounded off with a Guys and Dolls medley in the lively arrangement by Mac Huff. The occasion’s success was demonstrated by the guests’ very appreciative response, with particular praise for the choir’s thrilling sound and beautiful blend.