To commemorate their conductor Malcolm Goldring, who died in May 2021, The Sitwell Singers put together a programme of his personal favourites, and invited other musicians who had worked with him to join them. David Henshaw, who has been steering the group during the past year, conducted, with regular collaborator, organist Tom Corfield - Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 18 June 2022.
Malcolm's own Choral Fanfare got the evening off to a bright, snappy start, followed by a touching tribute from his wife, Rebecca.
Short sacred pieces took up the bulk of Part 1. Felix Mendelssohn's Verleih' uns Freiden, Rheinberger's Abendlied and Brahms' Geistliches Lied were given gentle, contemplative treatment, with Brahms's canonic lines emerging clearly. Before the Brahms, Tom Corfield brought a steady pace to J S Bach's chorale prelude 'O Mench, bewein dein Sünde gross', BWV 622.
'Quoniam Tu Solus Sanctus', from Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, brought a change of mood, with two of the Sitwells' guests, baritone Quentin Hayes and pianist Renata Konyicska, clearly having fun with Rossini's sudden expressive and tonal lurches. Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine was handled with nicely varied dynamics, and rounded off sensitively.
A string quartet comprising players Adam Summerhayes, Karen Silverwood, Kathering Parsons and Anne Mee, whose connection with Malcolm goes back to their membership of the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, brought graceful, elegant treatment to Elgar's Chanson de Matin and the main theme from Nigel Hess's score for the film Ladies in Lavender.
Malcolm had his favourite solo songs as well. Quentin Hayes and Renata Konyicska were back for two of them: Britten's folk-song arrangement 'The Salley Gardens' and Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin's evergreen 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square', to which Quentin brought his considerable stage experience.
Two of Malcolm's choral arrangements followed: the Lennon-McCartney classic 'Yesterday' closed part 1; Billy Joel's 'Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)' opened the second half, both given committed performances.
Renata Konyicska's unassuming persona gave no hint of the compelling performance of Chopin's Ballade No 1 that followed. Her understated but firm treatment of the opening, sparkling, crystal-clear passage-work, and grasp of the darker undercurrents had me hanging on practically every note. She was then joined by American-born soprano April Frederick – who worked with Malcolm and his Midland Festival Chorus – for two songs by Richard Strauss, 'September', from the Four Last Songs, and 'Befreit', Op 39 No 4. They found a kind of ecstatic melancholy in the first, and commanded a wide dynamic range in the other.
Composer and conductor Bob Chilcott has worked with the Sitwells on previous occasions, and was a natural choice to write a new work for the occasion. Before that, he conducted them in 'The Abolition of Slavery' from his Five Days that Changed the World, and Two Friends, commissioned for the choir's fiftieth anniversary concert in 2016. In a short speech, he quoted Leonard Bernstein telling an interviewer 'I like music, but I like people more' – which was typical of Malcolm, too – and presented Rebecca Goldring with a huge bouquet. He then conducted the premiere of Everything Speaks of You, written after hearing the news of Malcolm's death. For this, the Sitwells were joined by colleagues from Worcestershire schools, and David Henshaw took his former place among the basses – a symbolic move, with the choir preparing to welcome new conductor Dexter Drown in September. The huge rainbow visible as we left the cathedral, just on sunset, seemed apt, too.
Copyright © 28 June 2022