As Durham University Chamber Choir is made up of the best choral singers that Durham University has to offer, the standard expected for their concerts is always extremely high. Tonight’s concert certainly met and exceeded these expectations.

Conductor Josh Ridley put together an exceptional programme (yet again) ranging from Bach to Todd, and also managed to cover a substantial amount of Christmassy crowd pleasers that I thoroughly enjoyed. The evening started off with Poulenc’s ‘Un Soir de Neige’, a wonderful work that demonstrated the great balance between the vocal parts. Although there was one soprano missing tonight, the sopranos certain held their own and matched the other sections very well.

The brilliant communication between parts and the choir’s attentiveness towards Ridley’s direction were all evident immediately and this was consistent throughout the evening. It must be said that this is possibly one of the strongest years of DUCC that I have seen so far.

For the second piece we went back in time to Bach’s ‘Jesu, meine Freude’, which followed on from Poulenc rather nicely. This was a varied work with some lovely fugal passages that created excitement due to the precise phrasing and direction of the choir. Although parts were separate and weaving in and out of each other, the overall movement within the work was conveyed with great success as Ridley knew exactly where he was taking the music. Acoustically, St Godric’s Church was not particularly resonant, meaning that every singer could be heard individually. Thus, the choir did a very good job combining their voices to create such a powerful overarching sound.

If I’m being picky, which obviously I have to be when reviewing DUCC, there could have been even more contrast between the soft, quiet and the dramatic forte moments. Having more precise articulation would have also really made this piece that little bit more special.  Overall though, a truly great performance.

Gorecki’s ‘Totus Tuus’ was one of my favourite pieces of the evening. I had never heard it before but I will certainly be listening to it a lot from now on. The start of this performance was spectacular, the choir was so forceful and yet also created an incredibly delicate atmosphere to contrast. This certainly had the audience captivated. Although this piece must be challenging to sing, they all did a wonderful job. This was one of those performances where you are truly emerged in the music and can think of nothing else. Admittedly it was so good I didn’t even write down any notes so I apologise for not being able to describe it in more detail- you should’ve been there to witness it yourself.

The second half of the concert consisted of a number a beautiful pieces. Jess Bryden on cello for the opening piece, Gjeilo’s ‘Serenity’ was stunning. The tone quality of the cello along with her use of intense vibrato worked so well with the choir that at times you couldn’t tell if you were hearing a voice or cello.

The layout for the singers was also very well thought out in this half, mixing up vocal parts so that they sounded even more intertwined. This was particularly noticeable in Martin’s ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ due to the beautifully close harmonies.

The attention to detail in certain pieces, such as Esenvalds’s ‘The Heaven’s Flock’ and Manz’s ‘E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come’ was outstanding. In the Manz, the melodic phrasing of the opening was incredibly well interpreted and the breathing from every member of the choir was perfectly matched. A special mention must go to Hannah Cox as she was such an engaging performer, her passion for the music was evident and very moving- a delight to watch!

Sophie Rudge’s solo in Leighton’s ‘Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child’ was a definite highlight of the evening. Her voice was exceptionally delicate and she successfully carried this melody with ease, matching up to the rest of the choir. The solos in David Hill’s arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ were also of a very high standard. Matt Jackson, Will Hirtzel, Rob Singleton and Emily Barnes all managed to provide their own musical interpretation of this well known piece and conveyed it with genuine emotion. There were moments when the rest of the choir were a touch too loud but this balance was restored very quickly, allowing the soloists to have their moment.

Overall, the exceptional standard that this choir has worked tirelessly to achieve was more than evident in tonight’s performance. It was such a privilege to see so many singers, not just technically accurate, but also completely immersed in the music themselves. A huge thank you to every performer involved in the concert tonight and the executive committee for making this evening possible. A huge congratulations to Sophie Rudge and Emer Acton for their continuous dedication towards this incredible music society, and shout out to Matt Asquith for another lovely poster design that he should be very proud of. The amount of talent and passion in this group is truly inspiring and all of your hard work is undoubtedly appreciated. The audience clearly felt this way too and Father Colm even said that this was “one of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time”.

Chamber Choir are performing on the 11th in Elvet Methodist Church with Durham University Orchestral Society and Northern Lights so make sure you get your tickets now!

It must be said that this was truly an exceptional concert. For everyone present, whether the performers or the audience:

“One of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long long time”.