Review published in the Romsey Advertiser on 9 July 2004
THE thirty-strong choir of Romsey Abbey is one of the finest all-male voice church choirs in the south of England outside of the cathedrals and, in addition to its part in the worship of the abbey, it makes occasional welcome appearances in the Music in Romsey concert series.
On Saturday evening the choir, conducted by Organist and Master of the choristers , Robert Fielding, together with assistant organist Timothy Rogerson and guest organist Jeffrey Williams, presented a wide ranging and demanding programme entitled Music for the Mass.
Opening with the Plainchant Ave verum corpus (Rouen Proper Melody) in which the voices floated out from the retrochoir, the anthology continued in the body of the abbey with the unaccompanied Praise to Thee, Lord Jesus of Heinrich Schütz and If ye love me by Thomas Tallis. Precise attack in part entries and carefully shaped phrases were to be observed throughout the evening. A second setting of Ave verum corpus, this time by William Byrd, was followed by an organ solo – Schmücke dich, 0 liebe Seele by Brahms, tastefully played by Jeffrey Williams on the organ’s Nave division. Concluding the first half of’ the selection with Mozart’s Missa Brevis in D major K. 194, the prevailing mood was well-caught and a confident performance was achieved. The fine Agnus dei was particularly notable.
After a brief interval the well known Wash me throughly of S.S. Wesley, Elgar’s setting of Ave verum corpus and the delightful Here, O my Lord of Percy Whitlock were splendidly balanced partnerships with Timothy Rogerson. Another organ solo, this time an Offertoire by Louis Lefébure-Wély, played by Timothy Rogerson, exploited the wide dynamic range and colourful tone palette available from the main organ. The unaccompanied Agnus dei from Byrd’s Mass for three voices and Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas displayed fine tone and control of the senior male voices to good effect before the most demanding work of the programme, the Messe solennelle in C sharp minor, Opus 10, of Louis Vierne. To get as near as possible to the composer’s original conception, both organ consoles were employed in this, and the the result was an extremely expressive and exciting account, on which all the participants should he congratulated.
It was good to hear that the rich choral heritage of church music is being preserved by choirs such as these.
Eric and Joan Wood