“Behold the Sea” – March 2015

East Indiamen, C Brooking Sunday March 29th 2015 West Point, Winslow Homer
7:30 pm
Royal Northern College of Music

This concert comprised British music depicting the sea, ships and sailors, and in the event was regarded as a great success. The audience quite numerous and they were well entertained. The excellent first half, with music by Henry Wood and Elgar is described below. For the choir, the main work was the Sea Symphony, which was new to most of them and sufficiently different in tonality and idiom to be a significant challenge. Despite over three months of rehearsals, one (and for some two) full-day workshops and a lot of homework, very few singers felt over-prepared. But the performance went well and it was a memorable experience to sing this great music along with a big orchestra and excellent soloists.  Karen Shivas from Oldham Photographic Society took many pictures of the performance, two of which are reproduced below.

Click here to view the concert programme.

Stuart Ferguson kindly provided the following review, part of which was published in the Oldham Chronicle on 31st March 2015:

A Lilt on the Ocean Waves

Last night in the newly-refurbished concert hall at Manchester’s Royal College of Music, Oldham Choral Society, along with the East Lancs Sinfonia and invited soloists, excelled with their Spring Concert: ‘Behold the Sea’.

Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures were framed by Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.

This trio of British compositions brought out every aspect of the seascape that makes us a ‘jewel set in a silver sea’. From the jaunty Jack the Lad Hornpipe to the serene Where Corals Lie, we were taken on a wonderful cruise across oceans of words and music depicting our ongoing love of all things nautical.

The East Lancs Sinfonia – with a 40-strong crew – and guest soloist Kathleen Wilkinson, captured Elgar’s Sea Pictures in a gallery of evocative sound and fury.

Henry Wood’s British Sea Songs featured the Choral Society’s 78 ladies greeting the return of the ships while the 43 gentlemen members gave gentle voice from the stalls with ‘Hum Sweet Hum’.

The second half was given over to Ralph Vaughan Williams and was a triumph of a well-rehearsed choir. Credit to the attendance at weekly rehearsals – where, I am told, such is the dedication that members stay beyond their allotted time!

Soloists were Linda Richardson and Dean Robinson and the whole combined into a masterly performance. With text from ‘Leaves of Grass’ by American Walt Whitman, The Sea Symphony was an explosion of vibrancy, painting a vocal picture of all the changing scenes of the seas. As chairman Fred Jones wrote in the programme notes, ‘Kwells at the ready’.

And praise must be given to the compilers of the programme. They’ve worked hard below decks to give us a tantalising view of composers and past performances, reminding us that once Clara Butt sang Elgar wearing a mermaid costume.

One man’s energy pulled all this performance together and that is orchestra conductor and choir leader Nigel P. Wilkinson. His energy is amazing. He could stoke the boilers on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic all by himself – and break records doing it.

Nigel holds the choir and Sinfonia in the palm of his hand, commanding them as the Admiral of the Fleet. His energetic baton weaves the various strands of the varied performances together and produces a sail-cloth with no seams.

Nigel invited the audience to join in at appropriate moments and that included speedy clapping of the hornpipe and producing a rousing Rule Britannia. A great night to be remembered.

Oldham Choral’s next concert is a Gilbert and Sullivan Gala on 31st May at Middleton Arena. Details from their website www.oldhamchoral.org.uk

A Sea Symphony – Ralph Vaughan Williams
This is Vaughan Williams’s first and longest symphony, written between 1903 and 1909. It is based on poetry by Walt Whitman from his collection “Leaves of Grass”, and is scored for orchestra, baritone and soprano soloists and chorus.  It follows the traditional four-movement symphonic structure – fast, slow, scherzo, finale – but the vocal forces are used throughout the work.
Sea Pictures – Edward Elgar
This is a cycle of five songs set for contralto and orchestra.  The first performance was in 1899 and featured Clara Butt dressed as a mermaid.
Fantasia on Sea Songs – Sir Henry Wood
This famous medley of British (actually all English) sea songs was first performed in 1905 to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  Until recent years it has been used as the traditional climax of the last night of the BBC Proms.
Linda Richardson Soprano
Kathleen Wilkinson Mezzo
Dean Robinson Bass
Orchestra East Lancs Sinfonia
Conductor Nigel P Wilkinson

Conductor, Soloists, Orchestra and Choir Performing the Sea Symphony

Sea Symphony Performance (Photo: Karen Shivas)

Applause for Kathleen Wilkinson after her Performance of “Sea Pictures”

Applause for Kathleen Wilkinson (Photo: Karen Shivas)

Tickets at £14 (students £5, accompanied children £1) were available from:

– Our ticket secretary on 01457 875 221

– The RNCM Box Office 0161 907 5555

– Or online via www.rncm.ac.uk under link “Book Tickets”