Ralph Vaughan Williams' 150th anniversary is upon us. This Worcester Festival Choral Society concert (with the admirable Samuel Hudson directing) not only had this in mind but also the subject of the sea. What is more, both items on the programme - Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony and Delius' Sea Drift - used pantheistic poet Walt Whitman's text with the sea as another way of linking the two.
Words in Whitman's text are surely vital to hear in light of this, and I unfortunately struggled to hear each and every one from baritone Andrew Mayor. (Admittedly I was sitting quite a long way back so that might have made life harder.) I found I was really having to depend on reading the words in the programme during the performance. This issue applied particularly in Sea Drift - less so in A Sea Symphony.
The Worcester Festival Choral Society does make a great sound, however. One could hear the words rather more when it came to A Sea Symphony, and the choral society's efforts created goose bumps (and other thrilling feelings) at moments where the combination of Whitman's words in the solo voices and chorus, and Vaughan Williams' orchestration, are both unleashed.
Any dubious ensemble moments with the Meridian Sinfonia during A Sea Symphony were redeemed at appropriate moments. Both soprano Sarah Fox and baritone Andrew Mayor here helped make up for the difficulty hearing the words in the Delius.
Perhaps it is a good thing RVW's anniversary is being celebrated and not that of Delius.
Copyright © 7 December 2022