Some recent reviews

“Alleluia ! I heard a voice” St.Mary’s Church, Corscombe, May 11th 2019.

Parnham Voices gave a superb concert on Saturday 11 May 2019, in the delightful setting of St. Mary’s Church, Corscombe.  The programme spanned several centuries, from complex 16th century polyphonic works by Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Peter Philips to arrangements by contemporary composers such as John Rutter.

The introductions to each section by the group’s Director, Mark Hewitt, added an extra dimension.  He informed us, for example, that Carlo Gesualdo, the composer of “O Vos Omnes,” is remembered not only for the tonalities used in his music, which influenced much later composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, but also for murdering his wife and her lover!  A group of spirituals was given extra poignancy by his recollection of the hidden meaning in many of the songs, with references to freedom and escape.

Several members of the groups sang solos;  their clear diction, combined with the excellent acoustics in the church, meant that every word could be clearly heard. 

The programme was interspersed with performances by talented young musicians Angelina Bosi (piano) and Anna Draperi (saxophone).  The works by Delibes, Prokofiev and Massenet were well received, and provided a refreshing contrast.

The concert came to a close with the folk song “O Waly Waly,” a rousing version of “The British Grenadiers” and the nostalgic “Golden Slumbers,” ending on a lighter note with “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

The wonderful music, delicious refreshments and far-reaching views from the churchyard made this an evening to remember.

Jane Golding

“Alleluia ! I heard a voice” in St.Giles Church, Chideock, Sunday, April 7th 2019.

The audience was treated to a wealth of choral music when Parnham Voices, directed in a clear and sensitive manner by Mark Hewitt, performed their afternoon Spring concert “Alleluia ! I heard a voice” in St.Giles Church, Chideock on Sunday, April 7th 2019.

The a cappella choir opened the programme with three Tudor anthems by English composers, Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Peter Philips, in which they demonstrated careful interweaving of musical lines and imitation, good balance between the parts and contrast between bright and more sustained sounds. Then two pieces followed by Italian composers:- Gesualdo’s “O vos omnes” with its chromatic language and inventive harmonies and Pizzetti’s “Agnus Dei” with beautiful, quieter lines – both pieces sung confidently.

The singers adapted well to the more pastoral, gentler mood of the next group of songs, including two by Gerald Finzi, and conveyed his deep understanding of poetry in “I praise the tender flower” and “ My spirit sang all day”. The three African-American spirituals, including ”I gotta robe”, were performed with great conviction, energy, robust rhythmic drive and confident solo lines.

The programme concluded with three traditional songs arranged by John Rutter, with vocal imitation of fanfares and drums in “The British Grenadiers”, and a rousing finale of “Somewhere over the rainbow “.

The choral items were interspersed with three instrumental performances by young musicians, Cecily and Imogen Moorsom, accompanied on the piano by their mother, Rosemary. Seventeen year old Cecily performed an unaccompanied Fantasia by Telemann on the recorder and Aria by Respighi on the violin, demonstrating a very high standard of musicality and accomplished technique on both instruments. Fourteen year old Imogen played a Nocturne by Franz Strauss on the French Horn in a confident, mature manner with excellent tuning and phrasing. Both girls have been supported by the Richard Ely Trust for Young Musicians which gives grants for young people to pursue their musical studies and interests.

This was a most enjoyable and varied vocal and instrumental programme.

‘Reformation and Renaissance’ concert at Stoke Abbott on 6 May 2017:

Raising the temperature

On Saturday May 6th the chilly rafters of St Mary’s resounded to the warmth of the Parnham Voices below.  The choir took us on a journey through 500 or so years, from the Reformation, through the Renaissance, to the present day (give or take a year). 

After a jubilant start, the first half of the programme was often sombre, reflective of the times, but in the second half, we enjoyed some gentle, sustained and balanced singing, particularly in the latter part.  The musical contributions were interspersed with poetry and readings ably delivered by James Wilson.

This was the last concert under the directorship of Nigel Edwards, and I am sure everybody in the audience would want to wish him the very best in his retirement, as well as wishing Parnham Voices every success in finding a new director. 

Thanks were expressed to the PCC for providing refreshments during the interval and in all, the princely sum of £305 was raised towards updating the now inadequate heating system in the church.  We will now look forward to a nice warm church in future winters!

Pat Kennedy 

Parnham Voices St Martin’s Church, Kingsbury Episcopi – 6th December

St Martin’s Church, Kingsbury Episcopi welcomed the talented Parnham Voices, a small chamber choir formed in 2002 from the Beaminster area, in a concert in aid of church funds.

After the challenging pitching of their opening piece, “Today the Virgin” by Sir John Tavener, the choir gave a near faultless performance. Their beautiful voices began at the back of the church and they processed singing to their places in front of the chancel.

The programme was varied both in time and style, ranging from baroque music by Bach to 20th century English by Sir William Walton and Sir John Tavener. Similarly there were carols that everyone would recognise such as Ding Dong Merrily on High to various German pieces that were less well known.

The choir sang unaccompanied throughout and although there were more female voices than male, the sound remained balanced and was enhanced by the good acoustics in St Martin’s Church. They were led by the understated but carefully guided conducting of musical director, Nigel Edwards.

An unexpected bonus was the beautifully narrated poems read by James Wilson which were interspersed with the musical numbers. The poems alluded to Advents and Christmases past. “Advent 1955” by John Betjeman reminded us that November weather is usually dull and windy and even in post war austerity, Christmas had its shallow commercial side, whilst Henry Wadsworth Longfellow commented that even in the mid 19th Century “there is no peace on earth”. There was a most amusing modern poem by the relatively unknown Geoffrey Rust which told the story of the angel whose sat nav misdirected him, not to celebs but to the ignorant shepherds.

However the highlight of the show was by the narrator and the Parnham Voices together. James Wilson read Poet Lauriat Carol Ann Duffy’s “The Christmas Truce”.

“Men who would drown in mud, be gassed, or shot, or vaporised
by falling shells, or live to tell, heard for the first time then –
Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles schläft, einsam wacht “

At which point the Choir came in with the famous German carol sung sotto voce behind the poem, as if from the trenches themselves. A most poignant moment in this week when our planes have gone to Syria and war is once again in our minds.

The Reverend David Gent gave a vote of thanks that included the choir and narrator, the musical director Nigel Edwards and also Mark Hewitt, who was in the audience, for his arrangement of “Away in a Manger”. He also thanked “the home team” for the tea and cakes served in the interval and then he cheekily asked for an encore.

The audience was delighted to be serenaded by a very harmonious choral version of “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. All in all a most enjoyable and polished afternoon of entertainment and a lovely start to the Christmas season. SS

Palestrina to Porter. Parnham Voices at Holy Trinity, Bradpole. Saturday 30 May 2015.

On the eve of Trinity Sunday a small chamber choir, comprising twenty voices, assembled under the stained glass windows at the west end of Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole. Parnham Voices, led by their musical director, Nigel Edwards, and narrator, James Wilson, then proceeded to enthral the audience with two hours of high quality singing, disciplined conducting and appropriate excerpts of poetry and prose.

Both the music and the readings took us on a journey of sacred and secular music, beginning in the sixteenth century with a bold, melodious rendition of Palestrina’s Tu es Petrus and ending in the twentieth century with an upbeat version of Porter’s Night and Day. The choice of programme demonstrated both the versatility of the choir and also their ability to perform in different languages. The effective use of dynamics, along with clear, precise diction were evident throughout. Theatrical effects such as the plaintiff call of the cuckoo in When Daisies Pied and of rhythmic marching voices in The British Grenadiers all contributed to the delightful variety of the pieces chosen.

All Saints, Martock

There is much to admire in the fine parish church at Martock, where the audience sat waiting for the concert to be given by Parnham Voices on April 30th.  There is the glorious roof,  the fine windows, the huge arches, the evidence of many centuries’ work – little did we listeners realise that the concert we were to hear would echo and complement these wonders, and cover as many eras! 

The programme– from Palestrina to Porter – afforded the listeners as much to enjoy in its variety and skill as did the venue.   Though relatively small in numbers, the choir is capable of producing a thrilling, full-throated sound, and, perhaps even more impressive, can fade to most beautifully controlled quiet singing.  This impressive range of dynamics, matching the demands of each piece in their repertoire, is a great credit to them and their director Nigel Edwards,  as are the wonderfully neat endings to each item, far from easy to achieve yet so satisfying to the listener!  But, even more than this perhaps, is the extra magic which choirs produce, often unexpectedly – those sudden touching moments which almost stop the heart.   There were many such for me during the evening –the Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Rachmaninov),  the O Radiant Dawn (Macmillan), the Ave Maris Stella (Grieg),  the heart-rending Spirituals from Tippett’s A Child of Our Time,  the delicate teasing in Macfarren’s When Daisies Pied, to name only a few. 

Singers, alone amongst music makers, use words as well as melody to convey their message and Parnham Voices sings with noticeably clear diction and confident command over several languages other than their own.  Nor was the spoken word excluded from their programme.   Readings, well researched and appropriate to the programme, were delivered splendidly by James Wilson (by turns sonorous, witty or touching), offering even more to delight the listeners’ ears and imaginations.  

‘Choirs always seem to have such fun,’ said a lady sitting behind me, and this was a very evident truth in the lighter pieces with which Parnham Voices brought their concert to a bright,  up-beat end – some favourite ‘evergreens’  from  Hollywood’s heyday.   There is no doubting this group’s command over its versatile repertoire and its commitment both to music making and to pleasing its audiences!    As one of their songs has it, “Who could ask for anythin’ more?”                  G.D.