On Tuesday evening two of Music Durham’s youngest ensembles took to the stage in the cosy setting of Hatfield Chapel. Flute Choir and Horn society treated the audience to a delightful evening of music all the way from Bach, to show tunes and popular song. Both groups were formed only this year – Flute Choir by Cara Wharton and Horn Soc by Holly Greenwood-Rogers – but are already well on their way to becoming some od Durham’s most active musicians!
The evening was split into four quarters, the first led by Flute Choir. Under the expert direction of Cara Wharton, the group performed Eye of the Tiger arranged by Michael Story. This gave an energetic start to the evening and illustrated the choir’s fabulous blend, but perhaps could at times have benefitted from not tuning quite so far in advance of the concert. This was followed by Tiyokoretodamore which really showed off their dynamic range and sumptuous lower parts. The higher parts were occasionally overpowering but for a group without a conductor, the timing and tempos were excellent, and the choir cleverly navigated their way through less well known non-western harmony. The first quarter closed with Disney Medley No. 2 which was a real toe-tapper that the audience visibly enjoyed! There were some slight tuning issues but here the choir clearly relaxed and enjoyed their playing. Lots of complicated transitions were effortless and the piccolo really shone through.
Flute choir were then followed by Horn Society, here directed by Zoe Wardell making her conducting debut. They performed Quipperies Volume 1 by Lowell E. Shaw and this was truly jazzy; horns like you have never heard them before! Straight from the outset you could hear the excellent blend of a group of strong individual players. No. 1 was effortless, with shimmering chromaticism and difficult harmonies which the group confidently performed; particular mention must go to the powerful final bass note – bravo! No. 2 continued with good ensemble, aided by the group regularly breathing together. No. 3 seemed somewhat less confident and perhaps could have benefitted from more rehearsal time as there were some slips to start but this soon settled with glorious melodies swerving all around the choir. Star player Tobias Batge. No. 4 was the jewel in the crown with perfect timing and truly stylistic playing.
The return of Flute Choir saw a complete contrast to jazzy horns with Bach’s Badinetrie. Never has Bach sounded more full of life! Very neat trills and articulation, and excellent intonation within all ranges. Onwards to Ponyo which had some balance issues but every played seemed to enjoy the challenges of this piece. Flute Choir’s penultimate piece was On a Clear Day by Kyle Ruggles. To my knowledge this is the only concert in Durham to have performed music from anime and it made a refreshing change! Flute Choir managed to capture the tranquil mood perfectly and special congratulations must be given to the players of the more complex inner parts. The third quarter ended with a real crowd pleaser, Bohemian Rhapsody. This was truly impressive without a conductor; there were some minor tuning issues but the audience were having too much fun to mind – it was very hard not to sing along! This was a fantastic close of the Flute Choir section of the concert with great dialogue between piccolo and alto flute, as well as virtuosic scallic runs, and intensifying dynamics.
To close the concert Horn Choir returned to perform three final pieces. Hansel und Gretel Prelude-Chorale again showed off the monumental range of the French horn and although they suffered from some slippery moments, the recovery was impressive. Start player – Evan Penn. For their final two pieces Horn Society featured two arrangers from within their ranks, the first being Mark Thiselton and his Phantom of the Opera Medley. The raw emotion of the horn proved perfect in this arrangement which featured every member of the ensemble. Sometimes there were balance issues meaning the melody was lost and they could have perhaps enjoyed the space more, but the accompaniments were precise. To close the concert Horn Society performed Let it Go, arranged by Zoe Wardell. This was another fabulous arrangement and settled quickly after the odd false start. Various members of the group even survived their music falling to the floor during the piece. This was a firm favourite to end a fabulous concert.