Review: Portsmouth Choral Union and Southern Pro Musica – “Life’s journey”

Portsmouth Choral Union at St. Mary’s, Portsea, 24 June 2023

It was fitting that on the day which celebrates the birth of John the Baptist that PCU should perform St. Nicolas by Benjamin Britten which includes the phrase ‘he climbed up to the font to be baptised’.

David Gostick had cleverly brought two pieces together, both of which tell ‘Life’s Journey’ and used the resources of a children’s choir, tenor soloist, solo violin, choir and orchestra with a large percussion section.

The concert began with Alec Roth’s ‘The Traveller’ which tells the story of the journey through life, based on historical and mythical Indian texts, supported by poems by Vikram Seth. A captivating atmosphere was created by the performers which included Nick Sharratt, tenor, whose soft notes were a joy to hear, Sophie Langdon, violin, who played the demanding part with aplomb and Southern Pro Musica, whose percussion section and harp excelled.

The PCU Choir sang the difficult sections of the piece with its changing rhythms and vocal line in a well-rehearsed manner, especially the tuneful love theme in the Youth Section.

Castle Primary School Choir, directed by Andrew Jackson, who also sings with PCU, performed with confidence and enthusiasm. The children were clearly well-rehearsed, sang everything by heart and were supported in the audience by proud parents.

After the interval, the children contributed an uplifting piece on their own, accompanied by Ian Richardson.

Ian was joined by Sue Graham Smith in a piano duet for ‘St. Nicolas’ which tells the story of the life of the Bishop of Myra, to a text by Eric Crozier. Nick Sharratt sang the part of St. Nicolas with passion and clarity.

A catchy tune was used to tell of The Birth of Nicolas and a treble soloist sang ‘God be Glorified’, accompanied by organ and finally the adult Nicolas took over the phrase.

The storm sequence was vigorously conducted by David Gostick and choir and orchestra produced a thrilling sound which resonated around the church.

It was a moving moment when the pickled boys, sung by Logan Broom, George Gostick and Sam Martin from Portsmouth and Salisbury Cathedrals, on being restored to life, processed from the back of the church singing ‘Alleluia’.

The audience joined in by singing two hymns with which ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way’ concluded the piece.

The Portsmouth Choral Union are to be congratulated on providing an enterprising concert, superbly executed and in using a children’s choir to encourage the young in enjoyable and imaginative music making.

Geoff Porter

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