REVIEW: Verdi Requiem


Chichester Cathedral – 7.30 pm

It was fitting that The Chichester Singers should choose a Requiem Mass for their autumn concert this year, falling as it did on Remembrance Day. Verdi’s masterpiece, composed by that doyen of romantic Italian opera, manages perfectly to combine the sorrow of the occasion for which it was written with the emotion that this highly charged music generates. And all the musicians involved did the work more that justice. From the lyrical opening Requiem – beautifully performed by the Singers without scores – to the fiery Dies Irae – containing some excellent brass ensemble playing, the performance as a whole came together to produce an evening to remember.

The Chichester Singers as the chorus were on top form, moving smoothly from the softer passages to the more boisterous with ease. I particularly enjoyed the final fugue in the Libera Me, which came across with real menace and an energy level that one might have expected to have been flagging by that point. Throughout, the ladies of the choir (there were nearly a hundred on stage) came across with clarity and precision. The men, lesser in number as unfortunately tends to be the case nowadays, did valiantly despite occasionally being overwhelmed when singing lower down the register. Their Rex Tremendae leads, however, were particularly impressive.
The soloists for the evening were Claire Seaton (soprano), Alison Kettlewell (mezzo-soprano), Alexander James Edwards (tenor) and Keel Watson (bass). Each has a significant amount of work to do in this piece, and each performed their respective inputs with consummate professionalism. However, each has a very different voice quality and tone, and I was not always convinced by the blend in the ensemble soloist passages, of which there are several. Nevertheless, there were some outstanding moments, particularly from Claire Seaton, who is a regular and a Chichester favourite at these concerts.

The Southern Pro Musica provided the orchestral input and, as always, impressed with the precision of their playing. It was a pity that occasionally they seemed to overwhelm the chorus, albeit beautifully, but it is invariably difficult always to get the balance right in an acoustic such as that in Chichester Cathedral.

The overall success of the evening was, of course, due mainly to maestro Jonathan Willcocks, who controlled proceedings with consummate ease, drove the pace as required and made the performance, as usual, highly accessible to his audience – a rare skill. At the end, the standing ovation and two applause recalls from a full house was testament to the success of this exciting and well executed concert.

Martin Richardson