Any event hosted in Brighton's idiosyncratic St Bartholomew's Church is bound to have an element of grandeur to it. The dominating building, rising out behind London Road like a modern manifestation of Noah's Ark played host to this year’s Sussex Chorus Summer Concert.
While the Sussex Chorus is an amateur organisation (much like any large choir) they were joined by soloists of an extremely high calibre.
The evening was delivered by a mixture of performing arts collectives. The Sussex Chorus hosted the show, accompanied by the All Saints Orchestra, four professional soloists and Nick Houghton on chamber organ. Alan Vincent was centre stage as conductor. While the Sussex Chorus is an amateur organisation (much like any large choir) they were joined by soloists of an extremely high calibre. This combination manufactured a strange dichotomy in the production whereby the hosts were the weakest link in their own chain. Though to label them the weakest link is not to label them as categorically failing in their choral duties.
The concert opens with Handel's rousing ‘Zadok the Priest’. It is a song requiring a ferocious urgency from both choir and orchestra, and while the opening lines just managed to blast themselves from the stage, the choir lacked the strength and cohesiveness to carry this song through to its close. St Bartholomew's at many points was the enemy of the choir; their voices failed to project well and were lost in its cavernous rafters. Mozart's ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ came next and this number saw the choir and orchestra work in tandem to create some very moving passages which were well executed.
The central piece of the concert, Haydn's ‘Nelson Mass’, saw the orchestra and choir joined by their chosen soloists. The Mass was delivered impeccably from these soloists, with younger soprano Elaine Tate giving a flawless performance. Their presence lifted the stage out of a little bit of lethargy it may have been feeling at this point in the second half. The result was a pleasingly successful rendition of this longer mass. The choir did struggle in some of the complex, rolling sections of the accompaniment yet it did little to detract from its largely triumphant execution.
Throughout the evening Alan Vincent conducted with a vivacious passion, playing his lively role perfectly. He led the performance well, and created a musically enjoyable evening in an architecturally stunning setting. The audience applauded at length to show their support and gratification, and in this, I joined them.