Review: The Centenary Concert by the Portsmouth Choral Union

Members and friends braved the snowy Spring evening in Basingstoke to attend the Centenary Concert at the Anvil, summed up by one person at the end as a “memorable emotional experience.”  The concert performed by Southern Pro Musca and the Portsmouth Choral Union and conducted by David Gostick, commenced with a strong rendition of Jerusalem

David then explained why he had chosen Cecilia McDowell’s Five Seasons as the opening work. He said that in view of the WI Centenary he felt the work should be by a woman composer and this piece represented some of the strong values of the WI, the countryside, the soil and agriculture.  Chrissie Dickason, the librettist, spoke of the way she and the composer created the work, staying at five farms and experiencing some of the work.  This gave them a better understanding of the way, the seasons and earth connected with farming and people.  The choir and orchestra then performed the work and the audience could follow some of the themes mentioned.

Following the interval the audience settled to hear the main work, Karl Jenkins Mass for Peace, more commonly known as The Armed Man.  This popular modern work is frequently performed and the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Benedictus are frequently heard on the radio.  However, rarely is the work performed with the visual images of videos and photographs that accompanied this performance throughout.

The Call to Prayer performed by an Imam portrayed many people of various religions, praying in their different ways. Women undertaking war work, countries preparing for war, accompanied the Kyrie and later, the Benedictus again showed women helping to rebuild their broken towns. Men going off to war and returning often maimed and handicapped followed this. Later, with absolute silence in the auditorium, we watched the tragedy of New York and 9/11;  images of multitudes of war weapons and the destructions they create, resulting in so many refugees, handicapped civilians and countless dead, soldiers, children, women;  the sadness of parting heroes and the joy and celebration of peace.  It was all there accompanied by the powerful music of Karl Jenkins performed impeccably by the Orchestra and Choir reminding the audience, if they needed to be reminded, of man’s inhumanity to man.

At the end of the performance, there was silence whilst the audience collected itself before well-deserved applause for the performers burst out; truly a memorable emotional experience.

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