It was not actually stated, indeed it could have been a coincidence, but the programme for the Dulwich Choral Society’s Spring concert might easily have been uplifted from such a one produced a century ago in the months before The Great War. Then, it would have been just the programme which might have been assembled to stir the hearts and minds of the audience in order for them to face the forthcoming war. The audience, at St Barnabas Church were stirred indeed by the large choir, under the direction of Aidan Oliver, accompanied by the Dulwich Festival Orchestra, a 50 strong professional ensemble.

Elgar’s Imperial March, composed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and first performed at the Crystal Palace in 1897 opened the concert in grand style. Then followed Songs of the Fleet, the setting of five of Sir Henry Newbolt’s powerfully patriotic poems to the music of Charles Villiers Stanford, initially intended for the Jubilee Congress of Naval Architects in 1910, by which year Britain had won the naval arms race over Germany - “Stand to reckon up your battleships - ten, twenty, thirty, there they go. Brag about your cruisers like Leviathans - a thousand men below” goes the first verse of The Little Admiral. Particularly successful was the atmospheric and technically difficult Song of the Sou’Wester which did the choir much credit.

Two excerpted pieces, scored for strings only, from the 1944 movie, Henry V by William Walton opened the second half. They were followed by a neglected piece, the setting to music of Robert Browning’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Charles Parry and rediscovered by Aidan Oliver. This piece for choir and soloists has not been recorded despite its success from the time it was written in 1903 until well into the 1930’s after which, along with many other Victorian and Edwardian choral works, fell from fashion. It was an excellent and amusing piece and the audience were able to follow the text in the programme. Guest soloists, Timothy Robinson tenor and Grant Doyle baritone sang the parts of the Piper and the Mayor respectively. The effect was slightly marred by the eighty strong choir being occasionally overpowered by the large orchestra.

The next Concert by The Dulwich Choral Society will be ‘ WHITE NIGHTS; A RUSSIAN CELEBRATION on Saturday 5th July at All Saints Church, West Dulwich at 7.30pm .
The concert takes inspiration from the famous ‘White Nights’ Festival in St Petersburg, where for two months at the height of summer the sun never fully sets and the city is filled with a spectacular extravaganza of the arts. Crowds pack the Mariinsky Theatre to hear Russia’s finest opera and ballet stars, while the streets are thronged for the outdoor celebrations including the celebrated Scarlet Sails pageant on the River Neva.

This celebration of Russian music and culture will rove from opera house to cathedral, from concert hall to the open steppes. Join us for an exuberant feast of music…and a Russian-themed party afterwards!

To include music by Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Chesnokov, Rachmaninov, Gretchaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov amongst others.
All tickets £14 (£7 for under 17s) from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village SE21;South London Music, Grove Vale, East Dulwich SE22; or call 020 7274 2349.

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