CONCERT REVIEW: Mass chorus provides night to remember in choir’s platinum year

PLATINUM NIGHT: Robin Carter (second left), conductor and musical director of the South Holland Singers, at St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, with (from left) Alex Aldren (tenor), Hannah Poulsom (mezzo-soprano), James Geidt (bass) and Carrie-Ann Williams (soprano).  Photo by Marnie McMorran.
PLATINUM NIGHT: Robin Carter (second left), conductor and musical director of the South Holland Singers, at St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, with (from left) Alex Aldren (tenor), Hannah Poulsom (mezzo-soprano), James Geidt (bass) and Carrie-Ann Williams (soprano). Photo by Marnie McMorran.
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South Holland Singers, with the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, Miriness Singers and soloists, Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn, St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding

When Welsh rugby union legend Sir Gareth Edwards scored what is widely acknowledged to be the greatest try in the sport’s history, fellow countryman and commentator Cliff Morgan said this:-

“If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no one would have believed it - that really was something.”

The same can be said after the first of two 70th anniversary concerts by the South Holland Singers at St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, on Saturday.

Joining the 71-strong choir, whose first concert was at the same church in December 1947, were 24 musicians from the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, led by Caroline Siriwardena, and nine members of the Mirinesse Singers, directed by Samantha Graper.

Completing the cast list were Spalding chorister Alex Simpson, Cheshire-born soprano Carrie-Ann Williams, Surrey mezzo-soprano Hannah Poulsom, bass-baritone James Geidt and medical student turned tenor Alex Aldren.

CHORAL EPIC:  South Holland Singers, conducted by Robin Carter, with the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah at St Mary and St Nicolas Church in Spalding.  Photo by Marnie McMorran.

CHORAL EPIC: South Holland Singers, conducted by Robin Carter, with the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah at St Mary and St Nicolas Church in Spalding. Photo by Marnie McMorran.

Managing this array of orchestral and vocal might was conductor Robin Carter, helped by organist David Shepherd, in his final year as the South Holland Singers’ musical director.

What a mighty work to start the choir’s 70th year with, Elijah by German composer Felix Mendelssohn which was premiered at the Birmingham Festival in August 1846.

Just like its first outing, Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Spalding was a magnificent triumph, full of awe-inspiring authority, passion and vitality.

The complexity of Mendelssohn’s arrangements, the soaring heights of the Old Testament prophet’s conquest over idolatry and his stunning low of being hunted like prey were all superbly captured in just over two hours.

What a super evening and we were all really thrilled with how it went.

Marnie McMorran, South Holland Singers, Spalding

Quite at what stage, and in what frame of mind, Mendelssohn was when he committed Elijah’s life and adventures to music is open to debate.

How do you compose music to fit the raising of a youth back to life, followed by calling down fire from heaven, rain on a parched land, the threat of royal execution and his final ascension in a fiery chariot?

Just as the South Holland Singers did in 1948, this generation of choristers let Mendelssohn’s epic tell its own story to a stunned audience.

No wonder Marnie McMorran, of the South Holland Singers, said afterwards: “What a super evening and we were all really thrilled with how it went.

“All the soloists and the Mirinesse Singers were excellent, whilst Robin Carter was just amazing.”

Meanwhile, James Geidt said: “It was great fun to perform such an epic piece to a good audience.”

Review by Winston Brown