Review: Chichester Chorale: “O for the Wings of a Dove”

” Outstanding Chorale performance in the most English of settings – Boxgrove Priory”

It was a beautiful, magical evening last week when a packed audience at Boxgrove Priory heard superb performances by the Chichester Chorale and accompanying soloists. The Priory has fine acoustics and beautiful surroundings, including mown grass pathways through to the original ruined priory. The audience appreciated the chance to wander with a glass of wine in the interval.

The performance opened with the Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year, and former Head Chorister of Chichester Cathedaral , Rafi Bellamy Plaice, singing “Hear my Prayer” by Mendlessohn. His voice is quite exquisite representing the best of English cathedral singing, and has both height and depth to it. He was then joined by the distingushed and much sought after tenor, Tom Robson, in a duet of Franck’s well known Panis Angelicus, which had a beautifully played and understated accompaniment by the Wessex Baroque strings – superb throughout- that was arranged by the Chorale’s conductor Arthur Robson. The two sang sensitively and joyously together.

Rafi then had to leave in short order to prepare for an early flight the following day to New York where he had a singing/recording engagement.

Tom Robson’s voice is strengthening in quality and richness, and he is in great international demand with all the most distinguished choirs in the world, and as an oratorio soloist. His singing of the madrigals, both ancient and modern- the latter including some written by Arthur Robson was quite effortless and fluent. I particularly enjoyed the two songs by Byrd that started the second half of the concert.

Somehow the Chorale had managed to engage the organist from St George’s Chapel Windsor, Luke Bond, fresh from playing at the royal wedding to accompany the Chorale in Vivaldi’s well known “Gloria”. His playing throughout was marvellously supportive and yet self-effacing. The Gloria is a fine work and merely because it is popular should not detract from its quality. The Chorale sang as well as I have ever heard them, the voices melding together beautifully and, unusually perhaps, the men were particularly good. The “Cum Sancto” that ends the work has a lovely part for the tenors and basses. The three soloists from the Chorale showed the high quality of the Chorale as a whole.

Arthur Robson conducted throughout, and as befits a lecturer in choral conducting, his skill was very evident – always understated yet clear.

Overall it was a magical evening and setting in which the Chorale and the soloists soared “On the wings of a dove”.

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