By Andrew Gordon – Saturday 4th May
The Witchert Chorale’s spring concert brought us, as ever, a package of surprises and some great musical moments. It also brought the welcome return to Haddenham of the Witchert’s partner choir from Berlin – the Golgatha Kantorei.
While Director David Quinn’s search of the musical world roams far and wide, treasure for this year’s concert was found closer to home. After a pop warm-up – an unaccompanied version of Rossini’s William Tell overture, performed with great precision – we had a motet, Ubi Caritas (Where there is charity and love, there is God), by Simon Shaw, who is a former member of the Chorale.
The work was an excellent vehicle for the Witchert’s controlled blend of sound, while the surge of contained emotion perfectly captured the medieval spirit of this ancient text. And with the evening sunlight filling the church, alive with its 800 years of village worship, who of whatever faith could not be moved?
Among secular pieces, listeners were much affected by a lament by Janacek, sung in czech, about a wild duck wounded by an unruly child and unable to fly back to its children on the Danube. A good choice for Haddenham: a pause here would have had folk slipping out to check the pond.
The Golgatha Kantorei, directed by Martin Krűger, is a church choir with enterprise. While much of their offering was devotional, it was shot through with joy and rhythm and a delight to their foot-tapping listeners. For two substantial works the choirs joined forces: for Schutz’s Singet den Herrn (Sing unto the Lord a new song) and the 8-part madrigal Lay a Garland by Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856), a Bristol Quaker who lived part of his life in Germany.
This year’s visit included a further German connection – with the Auenkirche, Leipzig, which has links with Golgatha. Their musical director Susanne Blache appeared to enjoy the Haddenham organ, especially exploiting its ethereal upper reaches in a prelude and fugue of Pachelbel.
The Golgatha and the Witchert choirs have been exchanging visits between Haddenham and Berlin for 7 years. It is clearly a happy partnership and the shared cultural heritage is much to be valued in these difficult times.
Among the surprises in this concert were two piano pieces brilliantly performed by our Hugh Stradling. The Chopin Ballade in particular, with its rhythm and coloratura above, drew exceptional applause.
Back to Caritas. The Witchert Chorale’s concerts are always in aid of charities and this one was for the Haddenham Syrian Family Project, which the village has been putting together over the last few months. The project needs £30,000, of which more than half has now been raised. An ambitious project with admirably wide support, now well on the way to success.