Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion; Schubert’s Mass in E flat

Joint Concert with Kantorei Heusenstamm

“Music has always had the gift of bringing people together and crossing boundaries”: so said the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society’s Chairman, Eric Holder in his welcoming remarks in the programme for the Joint concert with Evangelische Kantorei Heusenstamm.

The two choral works: Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion and Schubert’s Mass in E flat had been performed and enthusiastically received in Heusenstamm earlier in the month by the Kantorei and a contingent from the TPS. On that occasion it had been conducted by the Kantorei’s Director, Gunhild Berck. In Tonbridge School Chapel, Robin Morrish took the podium, the Orchestra being led by Penelope Howard.

A sprightly and suitably mischievous reading of Mendelssohn’s concert Overture A Midsummer Night’s Dream brought the fairy world of Titania, Oberon, Puck and Bottom to life. Written at the age of seventeen, the score is infused with youthful spontaneity and enthusiasm for his favourite Shakespeare play. The Orchestra responded with a spirited performance.

As the title suggests, Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion is a hymn of praise. The four soloists, singing as a quartet, alternate with the Chorus in the sections describing the Roman Catholic rites and the Eucharist. Making her debut with the Phil, Soprano Sandra Graham used her full operatic range in the solo sections, communicating effectively with the audience. She made the most of the verse which translates from the Latin as: “Let praise be full, let it be loud, let there be pleasing and benefiting jubilation from the heart”. The four soloists were less successful in blending as a quartet, with some unevenness of quality.

Schubert never heard his Mass in E flat. Although written for a ceremony to mark the founding of the Society for the Performance of Church Music in 1828, it was in fact not performed until the following year, after his death. It makes an imposing and approachable concert work as well as conforming to the traditional form of the Roman Catholic mass. The combined choirs of the Kantorei and the Phil were the stars of the evening in this work, revealing their evident excellent preparation and attention to the dynamic demands required of them. The soloists were Soprano Sandra Graham, Mezzo Arlene Rolph, Tenor Sam Furness (making a welcome return following his role as the Knight in Dyson’s Canterbury Tales with the Phil in 2008) and Bass Roderick Earle. Robin Morrish was able to draw the best out of all his forces in this work.

The concert was a tribute to all those who work so hard to ensure the smooth running of this triennial joint venture, where Anglo-German friendships are forged.

SG and RL