Verdi Requiem

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Dear Members of Isle of Man Choral Society

Thank you for singing Verdi Requiem so enthusiastically.  It was a spirited and most moving performance.

Verdi’s Requiem is a work that I know really well having sung it at school and numerous times with Royal Choral Society in London and elsewhere.  It was a great joy for me to share my passion for this work with you all.  I was greatly assisted in so doing by our wonderful and reliable accompanist – it is such a pleasure working with Jennifer as we both strive to inspire you all.

The choice of national anthems to front the Requiem was not really appropriate – but I could not waste the opportunity of having 8 trumpeters to perform these particular arrangements.  Only 2 of them had played those unwieldy fanfare trumpets before and I had not appreciated their particular difficulties – although military experts are able to present them horizontally, our “fanfare virgins” were not able to do so AND THEN play V R afterwards.

The Requiem’s opening muted string playing and your quiet clear singing was particularly exquisite – it really set the mood for the whole work.  It was very unfortunate that the tenor was not able to attend any rehearsals, so none of us knew what to expect when he opened his mouth.  He had an appropriately operatic voice but working together for the first time at the performance was difficult for him, Graham, Mandy and Charlotte, and meant I had to focus on supporting him and helping him to blend with what we had all developed together.  This is my favourite movement and the choir, orchestra and soloists certainly presented it most beautifully.

Everyone loves the dramatic moments, of course, and the ‘Dies Irae’ and others were indeed truly thrilling with vibrant string playing, blazing brass and sparkling woodwind (the piccolo came shining through it all) and thunderous drums that seemed to shake the building; with the chorus soaring above it all.  The trumpet section echoed by those offstage right and then left, developed wondrously – our basses really enjoyed the introduction to their ‘Tuba mirum’.   It is the quieter more intimate sections of this movement that I relish and these were sung and played most beautifully.  I had not previously appreciated how different the acoustics in the Royal Hall was on Sunday compared with Saturday – such a full house presented me, our soloists and the woodwind players with a particular and unanticipated challenge in the quiet sections.  There are many special parts in this 2nd movement – Mandy’s striking ‘Liber scriptus’ followed by her ‘Quid sum miser’ fronted by the clarinets and Charlotte Galka’s colourful supporting motive all so delightfully sung and played.  Thank you for waking everyone up with such a bold ‘Rex tremendae’, topped with the ‘Salve me’s’ – the gorgeous singing by you and our soloists was so beautifully mirrored and supported by the orchestra – all leading to the magical ‘Recordare’.  Mandy and Charlotte’s duet was sensitively underscored with the cellos consistent ‘rocking’ and ww mimicking the ‘salva me’.  The tenor’s lament, having had no rehearsal was ‘hairy’: he triumphed of course.  It concludes with Verdi’s ‘death motive’ before Graham aroused us again with ‘Confutatis’, his main solo sung so gloriously.  For some reason I took the ‘Lacrymosa’ a little too fast but the contrasting melodies were sung appropriately delicately (thank you!), topped with the ‘sighs’ from the lady soloists at different times and the strings.

IOMSO’s desire for a short break enabled us all to relax for a moment.

None of us knew how the third ‘Domine Jesu’ movement would develop – but despite being on tenterhooks and concentrating on what each of those involved had to do, we brought it appropriately to life.

The ‘Sanctus’ fanfares thrilled as the gents, then all, burst in with your shouts of ‘Sanctus’.  I thought the two oboes really supported the 1st and 2nd sopranos in the opening of the double fugue and you all joined in and expounded its complexities so well – it was wonderful to hear it all unfold.  It was the later half that I enjoyed the most, with the two choirs answering each other over dancing stings – culminating in the exciting last few bars.  Modern recordings play this movement very fast.  Our more measured tempo was necessary to enable us all to cope with the intricacies of each of the fugal entries.  I am sure you all appreciated the neat and increasingly dramatic playing from the orchestra that helped to inspire us on to the climax.  What a wonderful movement this is – I think we all loved it.

I wrestled to keep the flutes and soloists together in the ‘Agnus Dei’ but it really came off – the recording is amazing.  Perhaps you sensed my struggles and responded with words and tuning that was bright and clear.  Whilst focussing on what you had to sing, I do hope you enjoyed experiencing the intricacies of the orchestration that builds in complexity throughout this movement – all played so very neatly.

The six part ‘shimmering strings’ opening of the ‘Lux Aeterna’ was exquisite.  You will appreciate that I was very apprehensive about this number having had no rehearsal with Charne and with its very tricky soloist’s trios.  I am sure they greatly appreciated the confident support that IOMSO gave them.  The dancing flute arpeggios were a delight.

We had rehearsed the opening of the ‘Libera me’ a number of times together; so I must have relaxed just too much and brought the orchestra in under the soloist too soon: fortunately, she managed to jump in to rescue the situation.  You enunciated your unaccompanied words immaculately.  Then our soprano soloist inspired us all with her vibrant singing – nothing short of magnificent, topped off with our fastest and most inspired rendition of ‘Dies Irea’.  Launched with crystal clear notes from the oboes and buoyed with Charlotte’s glorious voice, your unaccompanied ‘requiem’ section was perhaps the most moving highlight of the afternoon.

We were all then presented with a complex fugue which again I wrestled to control but it settled down when Charlotte came in and introduced us all to the final double forte climax over which her top C triumphed, before we came back down to earth with the gentle ending.

I am sure we all really appreciated IOMSO’s meticulous and inspiring playing: delicate where appropriate, I thought it was magical throughout.  You will understand that I had to concentrate on making sure the trumpets played on cue and balancing that with a tenor, with whom we and our other soloists had not rehearsed, and supporting you all in the way you expected, was a challenge for me.  Fortunately you and the orchestral players stayed calm and focussed – thank you.

So it was a great performance and I know from the many e-mails that I have received, how much you all enjoyed it.

Next VR in 2028?

Brian has worked tirelessly with me through the season.  His prompt response and attention to detail is so much appreciated by us all.  We all rely on him, Charlie and each of our Committee members for their necessary efforts so readily and enthusiastically given to ensure a successful concert.  You may not also be aware of the support that I am given by Janet Warburton and other leading members of IOM Symphony Orchestra, not only for their playing but also for so many of the organisational details leading up to the concert.

Thanks to those volunteers – Nici, Robert, Dominic, Chris and Michael who capably joined the VM staff in setting up the stage and seating on the Saturday morning allowing me the time to cover final rehearsals with soloists and brass.

Thanks to those who hosted our soloists and guest players.  Once again Jim and Chris Cowell gave the young trumpeters a wonderful time.  Charlotte enjoyed being looked after by Gloria and Charne by Nici.  Mandy introduced to us a charming violinist (who in known to play standing on her head) – and looked after her.  Not only does this contain our costs by not putting them up in a hotel but it is clear that they all loved coming to perform with us. It was most kind of Margaret and Adam Kelly to take Sarah back to the airport allowing her friend Mandy to relax and enjoy the post-concert party after her sterling performance.

I was concerned that I had not emphasised enough the importance of publicity – we have thrown away lots of flyers.  I need not have worried.  Despite our efforts, the Manx papers are reluctant to insert our press releases.  Fortunately James Davis and Manx Radio came up trumps as usual and Mandy’s ‘Facebook’ promotion generated a huge response.  We had a wonderful audience and embarrassingly ran out of programmes (for the very first time).

Flanked by two outstanding opera singers, I am sure you will agree with me that Mandy and Graham more than equalled them and excelled themselves for us once again.

So THANK YOU ALL.

Enjoy your summer break.  I look forward to seeing you all again at our first rehearsal on 13th September.  As soon as our Committee has selected what we shall sing, you will be notified – do please return your application forms promptly.

Best wishes

Julian Power

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