A Chorus of Praise for Luminosa Voices
Luminosa Voices’ latest concert in St Peter’s Church, Petersfield, performing to yet another capacity audience on Saturday 13th July, did little to disappoint. The Choir, coming up to its 10th Anniversary year, left the audience in no doubt that they continue their reputation as one of the strongest choral sounds in Hampshire.
Led expertly and with great warmth from the rostra by Artistic Director, Rebekah Abbott, the programme comprised Opera Choruses from the era of the Baroque through to the 20th Century.
Two of the greatest sources of variety for the concert was first the ingenious decision to devote part of the concert to a number of ensembles, and second to the clever programming of these ensembles throughout. Luminosa Young Voices was one such ensemble: a 30 strong group of 6-11 year olds. Also Luminosa Chamber Voices, who are 20 auditioned singers drawn from members of the adult choir. All of these performances ranked high among the concert’s highlights and did much to exhibit the impressive skills of the talented individuals who comprise the whole. With bookend performances by Luminosa Voices, the 80 strong choir, it was they who began the evening, with a selection of four Opera Choruses.
From the outset, (despite momentary nerves from the Tenors and Basses in the opening Verdi Anvil Chorus) the choir sang with an energy which was impeccable, dramatic, witty and subtle. It had as much attention to detail as the exquisite corsages with which the female singers of the choir were adorned. Accompanied at the piano throughout by the thrilling sound of Valentina Seferinova, a pianist of some note, this reviewer observes, Valentina’s playing was deft, watchful and sublime. Of particular note was her handling of the soft nuances of Mozart’s Voyager’s Chorus and her provision of suitable rubati for the Habanera by Bizet. Ensembles, Conductor, Soloist and Pianist: this concert was in safe hands.
Of particular mention too was the wonderful, powerful and emotive sound of guest Soprano Ella De-Jongh. Ella’s silky tones were expansive for the Mezzo Soprano character of Carmen in Bizet’s Habanera, but were controlled and fluid for the solo in Mozart’s Voyager’s Chorus, which she tackled with ease and clarity. Ella then took to the stage, accompanied again by Valentina Seferinova, to perform two glorious arias by Mozart and Massenet, the latter of which was particularly suited to her. She sang with an exciting reverberance and weight, yet a beautifully resonant bright tone. Certainly this must be a star of the near future.
Ending the first half were the previously mentioned Luminosa Young Voices. With five pieces continuing the Operatic theme, they delighted with the opening ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess. However, it was with Britten’s Coaching Song from his opera written for children, the Little Sweep, which provided greatest delight. Here, this young choir showed their flexibility and truly gripped the audience with their impassioned singing, all sensitively and expertly brought together by their exuberant conductor Jonathan Upfold. The children responded to him beautifully, shaping the sound with great clarity, confidence and excellent diction.
After an interval made all the more enjoyable by Hattingley Valley Wines’ contribution of Sparkling wine and the favourable weather, it was the turn of the Chamber Choir, Luminosa Chamber Voices, to take to the stage. With a programme carefully spun out of the Operatic theme, this smaller ensemble sensitively handled five Baroque Opera examples. This smaller group not only provided a contrast to the main choir, but provided a very expressive and clear, balanced sound. This was particularly noticeable in Handel’s emotion-laden chorus from Acis and Galatea, ‘Mourn all Ye Muses’, and in a spritely and energised performance of Vivaldi’s ‘Con Mirti’ from Vivaldi’s lesser known opera, Orlando Furioso.
The final quartet of Choruses came from the main choir, Luminosa Voices. Taking to the stage with an added verve and drive, the final section of this concert began with Verdi’s ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from Nabucco. A member of the audience later said that they could hear expressed afresh the very real pain and the homesickness of the slaves from Luminosa’s performance; this reviewer has to agree. After a beautifully phrased performance of Rossini’s Villager’s Chorus, the final pairing of pieces came.
Verdi’s Brindisi from La Traviata saw the return of Ella De Jongh as the fated Violetta, accompanied in the role of Alfredo by Jonathan Upfold, the Youth Choir’s conductor. Himself a cathedral-trained tenor, he produced a vibrant sound which was accurate to the ebullient nature of the character which he represented. His voice blended beautifully with the voice of Ella, performing as Violetta.
The choir provided a dramatic and flavoursome backdrop to this duet. The final chorus was the biggest hitter of them all. Mascagni’s Easter hymn combined thrilling choir with Ella’s explosive sound. All exhibited great control and accuracy with this dramatic finale, in which there was no loss of quality at any point. The energy and commitment of all who took part was sustained right up to the final bar. And in those final reverberations around the wonderful acoustic of St Peter’s Church was a standing ovation and applause which has lasted long in the memory of this reviewer.
Luminosa’s next concert, Handel Messiah, takes place on 23rd November in St Andrew’s Church in Farnham. It promises to be a truly special performance of this work, with some relatively lesser known sections being sung. The work will be accompanied by Surrey Mozart Players, Richard Copland at the Organ and an exciting line-up of soloists, including some hailing from Glyndebourne Opera. The concert will be complemented in the interval by mulled wine. Tickets are available in advance via firstname.lastname@example.org and nearer the time through www.ticketsource.co.uk/luminosamusic. Concert-goers are advised to book early to avoid disappointment as their July concert was a sell-out many weeks prior to the event.
~ Edward Russell ~