In celebration of the bi-centenary of Verdi’s birth, the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society chose his Requiem for its November concert. We are indeed fortunate in Tonbridge to have a society with both a choir and an orchestra large enough and sufficiently talented to present music on such a scale. The grandeur of Tonbridge School Chapel makes a fitting setting for such a work, even facilitating the dramatic effect of antiphonal brass.
Both choir and orchestra were on fine form. The confidence engendered by performing a work which is well known was apparent, and this helped to create both the over-whelming power and the sensitive expression required by such colourful music – music akin to the graphic portrayal of the Last Judgment shown in wall paintings in old churches. The warmth of tone produced by the orchestra, especially in its accompaniment role for the four soloists, was partly the result of the players having worked together for so long, and under the leadership of Penelope Howard, who has occupied that vital role for twenty years. This was her last concert with the Society, and the conductor, Robin Morrish, gave a warm and heartfelt tribute to her inspirational work and musicianship in his concluding speech.
Robin Morrish’s notable rapport with the choir encouraged precision in the complex fugal passages and subtle control of dynamic expression in the lyrical sections.
There was a fine team of soloists and it was fortuitous that their vocal timbres achieved such a beautiful blend, because so much of the Requiem presents the solo voices in duet, trio or quartet form rather than as extended single vocal lines. The line-up of Tamara Ravenhill (soprano), Susan Legg (mezzo), Iain Milne (tenor) and Lancelot Nomura (bass) made a strong team which captured the beauty and pathos of the text and music expressed through Verdi’s ensembles. Their style of performance tended towards the devotional rather the operatic, and this seemed appropriate for a performance in Chapel. Their musicianship and rapport with one another were evident throughout this great work.
The large and supportive audience responded warmly to this heartfelt performance which so strongly reflected the personal commitment and vision of Robin Morrish. We should be truly grateful for the expertise given so generously by our local musicians to uplift and inspire us.