Music Director’s Magnificent Farewell

HCSThere were two compelling reasons for securing a seat in Reading’s Concert Hall last Saturday. First, to experience Verdi’s sublime Requiem; second, to celebrate the culmination of Will Dawes’ tenure as Music Director of Henley Choral Society in his final concert. In seven years he has lifted HCS to performance standards unimagined prior to his arrival.Will-Dawes2


For the event, a 160-strong chorus, four soloists and a professional chamber orchestra (Southern Sinfonia), were assembled.


The orchestra’s quality was instantly apparent from the beautiful cello entry to the opening Requiem. In the Kyrie that followed, Elisabeth Meister (Soprano), Kate Symonds-Joy (Mezzo-Soprano), David Butt Philip (Tenor) and James Oldfield (Bass) responded with impact and virtuosity, signalling the clear prospect of something really special.


The Dies Irae had everything, from the terrifying day of anger and terror to brass fanfares and lyrical solo and duet arias. The mezzo-soprano despatched her peach of a solo part with total conviction; the tenor aria Ingemisco (I lament) was outstanding, supported sensitively by the oboe and bassoon; and in the Confutatis the bass soloist grasped his opportunity to excel.


In the second half the quartet was a joy to hear in Domine Jesu. The Sanctus showcased the choir’s full technical range and they then conversed beautifully with the two sopranos in the Agnus dei’s oscillating theme. The final Libera me revealed soprano Elisabeth Meister’s acute sensitivity and effortless virtuosity. Her breathtaking top C, prefacing the final polyphonic explosion, was to die for.


The singing throughout was fabulous, shaped brilliantly by Will Dawes’ authoritative direction from the podium.  It was an uplifting experience for all, fully meriting its standing ovation.


Will Dawes’ successor, Benjamin Goodson, is in the wings, anticipating his debut on 2 September 2013.


For membership enquiries, please call Wendy on 01491 576929.


Trevor Howell