Stainer Crucifixion - Audlem 2014

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Crucifixion Poster

The Crucifixion

Sometimes in life the odds appear to be stacked against you, and as the date of Saturday April 5th approached, Audlem Voices were beginning to wonder if maybe this was one performance date they should have changed!
Several members of the choir, in particular the male tenor section, were unable to attend due to reasons beyond their control such as holidays, illness and grandparent duties, our regular accompanist Richard Lythall also became unavailable and on the day of the performance a replacement tenor lost his voice!
However adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. Our soloist tenor agreed to curtail his powerful voice a little and join in with the choir when a necessary boost was required. Our Musical Director Jenny Collis-Smith elicited the assistance of her son Paul, who has recently been appointed Director of Music of one of the first professional brass bands in the country, as our conductor and Jenny herself became our accomplished accompanist on the church organ, thereby swelling the ranks of the choir in one fell swoop to even greater musical heights!
We were also fortunate to have acquired the talents of two of our favourite experienced soloists Philip Cartwright (Tenor) and Kevin Whitfield (Bass), who had jumped at the opportunity of once again singing with Audlem Voices in St James Church, with its amazing acoustics and elevated setting.
The evening programme commenced with the choir singing a classic from the choral repertoire, 'He watching over Israel' by Mendelssohn. This was followed by a variety of selected pieces, beautifully sung by our tenor and bass soloists.
There's a seductive, chilling mystery around the story of the next piece sung by the choir, 'Lacrimosa' from Mozart's Requiem. Mozart died after composing the first eight bars, the last words he set to music marking "that day of tears and mourning". You would think it was more the creation of a Hollywood potboiler than reality, but it did actually happen: one of the world's greatest composers died writing what turned out to be his own Requiem! The audience was mesmerized by the beautiful and haunting harmonies as the choir sang this piece, followed by Hostias, also from the Requiem.
After a short interval, whilst both the audience and choir members were lubricated with fresh cups of tea and biscuits — some were lucky enough to spot the delicious home made cakes kindly left over by church members from the morning's activities, the audience took to their seats once again, prepared for the highlight of the evening.
John Stainer's 'The Crucifixion' is England's best-known example of the musical Passion, being tailor made for a parish church.
In the right hands, and with Jenny Collis-Smith as our organist, details that often go overlooked breathe life into the work. Well-timed changes of organ registration add dramatic shading to the narrative tenor and bass solos, colouring their words and punctuating long stretches of text that can ramble without sonic signposts. Attention to the pacing and dramatic content of the choral passages, especially the famous "God so loved the world," made poignant vignettes out of hymn-like simplicity. Ensuring that the words are clear, and not swallowed up in a soup of vocal sound, allows the listener to get involved, and the Audlem audience certainly did!
Our conductor, Paul Collis-Smith — more used to dealing with military bands — swung round at appropriate moments to ensure that the audience rose to their feet as one to add the colour and depth of their combined voices to the choirs, enabling all present to become involved and drawn into the story. The constant up and down movements required by both the audience and choir had the added benefit of a free aerobics lesson!
The audience applause at the end of the programme was testament to yet another successful musical evening held by Jenny and her choir, however none of this would happen without much hard work and constant rehearsals of her enthusiastic team! We are indeed fortunate to have such an enterprising and uplifting group of singers in our midst.
If you were unable to attend last Saturday's concert, or indeed, if you wish to enjoy the programme again, you will be delighted to know that Audlem Voices are planning a repeat performance on Saturday 12th April at Wistaston Church Hall, Wistaston at 7.30pm. Do come along as we can promise you another evening of musical delight! Tickets are available at Williams Newsagents or on the door.
As usual, none of Audlem Voices events would take place without a combined team effort and our special thanks go to Sue Davies, Jan Evans and Wendy for their stalwart efforts in the kitchen, to Ian Jones for his help on the door and to Andrew at the Post Office and Williams Newsagents for selling our tickets. Finally, a grateful thank you to Joe at Audlem Printers, who manages to turn my garbled ideas for artwork into the most amazing and colourful tickets and posters at unbelievingly low prices!

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