Review

Chew Valley Choral Society's decision to tackle Brahms' 'A German Requiem' was a courageous one. Notoriously challenging for choirs, it's an epic with a theatrically explosive nature, exploring the nuances of grief and mortality.

In the right hands it can be a moving and emotive piece, and the Chew Valley Choral Society, under the direction of David Bednall, was certainly in the right hands and, moreover, in fine voice at St John the Baptist in April.

Chew Valley's rendition was arresting and powerful. Particularly poignant were the movements driven by baritone Christopher Sheldrake. Sheldrake and his chorus asked "Lord, let me know mine end and the number of my days: let me know how frail I am" with such gusto and pain. The Chorus echoing Sheldrake like maudlin angels, repeating and reverberating the angst of a soul facing death.
The sublime voice of soprano, Julia O'Connor, provided the perfect balance to Sheldrake's depth and darkness.

Whilst David Bednall picked out, held on and hammered home the intricate threads of this mawkish piece, all the time maintaining momentum through the movements, pianists Brenda McDermott and Jacqueline Bevan provided a beautiful accompaniment tackling the complex piano duet with mesmerising grace. The first half of the evening had also been a demonstration of their dexterity as they tackled Brahms' quirky Hungarian Dances.

Yet it was the choir who stole the show. They embraced and projected the drama of the score, not only empathising but conveying the dimensions. When they asked "O death where is thy victory?" it struck a nerve that continued to tremble long after the performance.

Chew Valley Gazette - May 2014

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