Durham University Chamber Choir: Bach B Minor Mass

Durham University Chamber Choir were clearly not daunted by it in the slightest by the volume of this momentus work, and last night’s performance in the Great Hall of University College was notable for its accomplished solo and ensemble singing. The movements that particularly stood out for me in this performance were the broader, more expansive parts, where conductor Harry Castle gave the singers space to relish the richness of Bach’s choral writing – this came through best of all in the luscious suspensions of the Et expecto in the Credo where the choir piled up the tension before the wonderful release into the fast section that follows. The third section of the Kyrie was driven forwards by a thundering bass section, with long phrasing in all parts that filled the music with energy even at a relatively slow pace. The Gratias Agimus Tibi of the Gloria cooked with a slow, controlled simmering, which finally came to the boil when the same music returns at the very end of the Mass. The sopranos, clearly relishing the higher notes of modern pitch, added plenty of zing to the most brilliant parts of Bach’s exuberant lines and the basses glided through the notorious et iterum venturus est with impressive unanimity. It’s a mark of the quality of DUCC that eleven different singers took the solos, all of them excellently sung. I...

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DUCS, DUOS and DUCC: In The Light of Spring

On Saturday 7th March, Durham University Choral Society, Orchestral Society and Chamber Choir showcased the range and excellence of musical talent at Durham University with a concert entitled In The Light Of Spring. Nearly two hundred students were involved in this exciting collaboration between the three societies, with the performance of Lazarus Requiem by Durham alumnus and nationally recognised composer Patrick Hawes being the highlight of the evening. Supported by skilled soloists drawn from the alumni and student bodies, the concert also saw the societies perform Vivaldi’s Gloria. The Choral Society had been hard at work putting the finishing touches...

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Durham Opera Ensemble: The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro (1786) is arguably one of Mozart’s most universally acclaimed works – an opera buffa that fuses everything you want in a musical comedy: a suitable yet ridiculously conceived plot, an assortment of stereotypical characters, and a barrage of unfailing wit that will entertain the audience. I had high expectations for Durham Opera Ensemble’s (DOE) inaugural production in the Gala Theatre, and was not disappointed. Undoubtedly, this was one of the strongest and most talented principal casts I have seen in student theatre.  Harry Castle, Musical Director, displayed authoritative leadership in commanding a clearly talented orchestra that played extremely consistently for three hours. The orchestra and the singers and were largely together but a special mention deservedly goes to the oboes for some beautiful colour in their playing, and unquestionably to Will Ford for some superb harpsichord playing during the recitatives. Whilst an English libretto was used in favour of the traditional Italian, this helped create a more accessible and less elitist interpretation. When it came to the exposition of the principal cast, the male leads were suitably assertive. Figaro, played by Tom Rowarth, displayed a strong stage presence and delivered a consistent vibrato in managing all of Figaro’s baritone range with ease – particularly in his famous Act I Cavatina. Equally strong in character was the slick yet sleazy demeanour of Count Almaviva, played by...

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Durham University Orchestral Society: Concert

Fantastic dreams, restless dances, storms and disturbed sleep swirled together in Durham University Orchestral Society’s Epiphany term concert in a programme of vividly evocative music that used the entire rich palette available to the orchestral composer – plus a few extras.   Rossini’s overture Il Signor Bruschino provided a light introduction, a sparkly aperitif before the weightier, more interesting things that followed. The DUOS Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Zeffman bounced cheerily through it, and had plenty of fun with Rossini’s unorthodox percussion – violin bows tapped on the music stands.  One of Peter Maxwell Davies’s best known pieces is his An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise which ends gloriously with the arrival of a piper, but this isn’t the only piece he’s written for pipes. Kettletoft Inn, for Northumbrian pipes and a quintet of strings plus cor anglais was written in 2006 for Kathryn Tickell, and was being played for only the second time this evening but it deserves to be more widely heard, and hopefully the resurgence of interest in Northumbrian folk music that Tickell has started will mean that there will soon be more pipers around to play it. Soloist Alice Burn beautifully showcased the plaintive, lyrical qualities of the Northumbrian pipes, a much gentler instrument than its Scottish cousin. Kettletoft Inn swings between expansive evocations of the vast moorland skies and relaxed, impromptu dances. Maxwell Davies...

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Sir Thomas Allen’s Birthday Celebration

It is undisputed that Sir Thomas Allen is one of the finest lyric baritones of our time and so it seemed only fitting that his surprise birthday celebrations, held at Durham Castle last night, featured some of the university’s top singers and instrumentalists. A string quartet, featuring Chris Hirschman, Tim Seegar and Clare Durgan, greeted the Chancellor and his guests upon arrival, with guests in the Great Hall arriving to the sounds of the Big Band, before an introduction from another of the string quartet’s members, Experience Durham’s Head of Music Development, Jessica Lawrence. In her speech, she mentioned the awed reaction of one of the students at having been invited to sing at this event, saying that he was his “hero”, something that was echoed by many people throughout the evening. The first performance was given by the Opera Ensemble and displayed the talent of both the excellent soloists and the company altogether. Marnie Blair gave a brilliant and sultry rendition of Carmen’s Habanera aria (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle), before Hattie Ekbery and Lewis Whyte entertained with the Papageno/Papagena duet from The Magic Flute. Also included were the Sola, sola in buio loco sextet from Don Giovanni and the return of a brilliant arrangement of Summertime from Porgy and Bess by Roderick Williams. During the breaks for the guests to mingle and enjoy the atmosphere of the impressive building, the Big Band brought further excitement to the...

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Upcoming Events

May 04
Jun 05

Cancelled: A Night at the Movies, with Music Durham!

June 5 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
United Kingdom
Jun 07
Jun 08

Palatinate Awards for Music and Theatre

June 8 @ 5:00 pm - 11:59 pm
Jun 11

Cancelled: Big Band Big Summer Gig

June 11 @ 7:30 pm - 9:45 pm