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'From Venice to Ipanema'

by Andrew Gordon – 3rd December 2017
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From Venice to Ipanema – a joyous concert in St Mary's

Witchert Chorale concert on Saturday 2nd December 2017

In the ample treasure chest of Haddenham's artistic talent, the Witchert Chorale is a sparkling jewel. Eighteen singers, producing a wonderful blend of sound, precisely rehearsed and with no rough edges, gave us a range of musical pieces, many of them rarely heard, filling to the roof the great space of St Mary's church. More importantly, they sing with obvious joy – joy in each other's company and in the delight they radiate to all who come to listen. What treasure indeed to be discovered by those now coming to live in Haddenham.

For their autumn concert on Saturday the Chorale was joined by the Witchert String Trio, two violins and cello, who gave us a Bach concerto and a Mozart serenade – a most distinguished debut with, and complement to, the Witchert Chorale.

The main choral theme on Saturday was Venice and the emergence in the early 17th century of a distinctive, liberated, style of choral music as pioneered by Gabrieli, Monteverdi and Heinrich Schűtz. Schűtz's O sing unto the lord a new song (sung in German) gave us the wonderful tapestry of sound that distinguishes the Witchert, while Monteverdi's Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord (sung in Latin) brought a series of jolly rhythms, with dance-like interludes on the violin which had feet tapping up and down the pews.

Much of the singing was divided into eight parts which, in a small choir, gives the opportunity for each individual to shine. And for a madrigal by Gabrieli the group separated into two choirs, one on each side of the church, effectively replicating the conditions of the original performance in St Mark's cathedral in Venice.

Moving from Venice, we had Brahms' How lovely is they dwelling place from his German Requiem, whose great crescendos marvellously complemented the grand architecture of the church. Later, at the other end of the scale, we had the O great mystery by the Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (sung in Latin), with its truly mysterious two-voice entries and swells voluptuously supported by Kate Kennedy's cello.

As in earlier years, the later numbers became progressively lighter, moving to Brazil for The girl from Ipanema and to Connecticut for some Yale glees, including the traditional humorous song of the university's leavers, The Whiffenpoof Song.

The Witchert Chorale is directed, with benign discipline, by David Quinn, who devises the programme based on his scholarly research. The concert is organized by Ann Millar and the choir is still (it is pleasing to see) to an extent animated by founding member Alison Court. The group's Spring Concert will be in Long Crendon (Saturday 24th March) and on Sunday 22nd April they will be performing in one of the concerts of London's Brandenburg Festival.

Funds raised from the concert will be distributed to two local good causes: the Haddenham Village Society and Abbeyfield Haddenham Society

Andrew Gordon
03 December 2017

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