REVIEW OF THE SPRING CONCERT 2018 PERFORMED AT ST. LEONARDS CHURCH.
By Susan Carey - Published in the Hawkinge Gazette & Channel Coast News 28th March 2018.
The Folkestone Choral Society were in fine voice as they opened the 2018 series of concerts at St Leonard’s church in Hythe on Saturday 24 March
Under the masterful direction of their conductor Stephen Hope they gave an appreciative audience two requiems, the first by Sir Philip Ledger who is not nearly as well known as he deserves to be and the second by the ever popular John Rutter.
In between the requiems were a series of short instrumental pieces by first the harp, then the flute and finally the cello. It all made for a very fine evening of listening.
Folkestone Choral Society Photo: Susan Carey
Taking the lead soprano role was Felicity Hope, the conductor’s daughter and an accomplished singer with many appearances at major venues as well as performances a guest conductor with several choirs in the South East.
The tenor part in the Ledger Requiem was taken by David Walder who is a regular soloist with choirs and choral societies both in the UK and abroad.
Not content with his leading role in the first half of the concert, David also joined the chorus in the second half to sing the Rutter requiem.
It was during a pause in the Rutter Requiem that the church clock struck nine and Stephen Hope theatrically checked his watch and waited for the chimes to finish before continuing the piece. At times, Stephen leapt into the air as he was conducting urging the choir to give their utmost. The choir seemed to respond well to this style and sang whole heartedly.
One very welcome feature of the concerts held at St Leonard’s church is that they are free for under 18s and it would be good as the programme continues to see more young people take advantage of this.
Among those attending was Cllr Mrs Ann Berry the Deputy Mayor of Folkestone enjoying the concert with her husband Maurice.
REVIEW OF THE SUMMER CONCERT 2017 PERFORMED AT ST. LEONARD`S CHURCH.
By Susan Carey - Published in the Hawkinge Gazette & Channel Coast News - 5th July 2017
St Leonard’s Church in Hythe was the venue for the Folkestone Choral Society’s first concert under the baton of their new Musical Director, Stephen Hope.
The church was full for the event and Stephen Hope joked that people had come in their ‘hoards’ for a first look at him.
When the previous Musical Director Dr Berkeley Hill announced his retirement there was a keenly contested selection with Stephen Hope chosen from a strong field.
Stephen was educated at Canterbury Cathedral Choir School and the King’s School and is a professional pianist, organist and conductor as well as working as a broadcaster and entertainer and has worked with Sir Harry Secombe and Roy Castle.
Stephen came over as a man of great energy and enthusiasm and he clearly relished getting the audience involved in taking part in the encore for the rousing finale making us all stand to sing so the applause at the end was a standing ovation.
Lennon and McCartney medley
The theme of the concert was Music for a Summer Evening with the choir singing folk songs, a medley of Lennon and McCartney and ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from Sweet Charity. Interspersed with the songs were instrumental pieces for the harp, the flute and a wind quartet. The hour long event was free to under 18s and it was good to see some young people taking advantage of this.
The Folkestone Choral Society’s next local concert is on Friday 2 December at Holy Trinity Church, Folkestone where they will be performing Saint-Saens Oratorio de Noel and Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Review of the 2015 - 2016 Season.
In November 2015 The Society presented Handel`s `Samson` at Holy Trinity Church, Folkestone. Although not the best known of Handel`s Oratorios, the choir loved the music that was well received by an enthusiastic audience. The work contains the wonderful `Let the Bright Seraphim` famously sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at Prince Charles` wedding to Lady Diana (remember the hat?). Suzy Fischer, an internationally renowned soprano, travelled from Berlin specifically to sing for the performance.
Mendelssohn`s `Elijah`, always a choral favourite, was the Society`s choice for their traditional Good Friday concert in the Leas Cliff Hall and was performed with a very substantial orchestra. In contrast the programme for the June concert in St. Leonard`s Church, Hythe contained Rossini`s `Petite Messe Solennelle` which was presented in its original version for just two pianos and organ. Both programmes gave the Society plenty of opportunity to sing some really great music and were well received by the audiences.
Review of the 2014 - 2015 Season.
The increased membership and greater confidence developed in the previous year has enabled the society to present some large scale and demanding concerts, with both musical and financial success.
In November we performed a "Winter Prom" to a capacity audience in the spacious and impressive Saga Pavilion. The programme comprised a mix of the familiar and less well known items appropriate for the season ...
John Rutter`s song cycle "When Icicles Hang", Vaughan Williams "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" and a selection from "My Fair Lady". The full professional resources of the Amberley Symphony Orchestra came into their own for the Sibelius "Finlandia" and Rossini "William Tell Overture" and the enthusiastic audience participation in the traditional Prom`s Finale made a fitting climax to the concert.
The Good Friday concert of Bach`s St John Passion in the Leas Cliff Hall, was a very different mood, but equally successful. This is one of choral music`s greatest masterpieces and the Society`s careful preparation of the very difficulty choruses paid off in a performance that was deeply moving. With six fine vocal soloists and quality instrumentalists, the story of the Passion unfolded with dignity. Instead of the sermon that originally separated the two parts of the Passion, the orchestra played Bach`s wonderful concerto for two violins. The ending of the Passion - the final choral - was particularly impressive, with a prolonged silence before emphatic applause.
The June concert was held in Holy Trinity Church, where the improved lighting has transformed the appearance of the interior. The vigour of Vivaldi`s "Gloria" and the serenity of Schubert `s Mass in G contrasted with the sparkle of concertos for cello (Vivaldi) and for organ (Handel) and shorter choral works by Zelenka and Purcell. This was a joyous occasion and a very fitting conclusion to a highly successful sea for the Society.
Review of the 2013 - 2014 Season.
The programme for this season was designed with quite specific aims.....to increase the number of singing members, to build confidence of singers and to raise our profile in the local community ... and all these were largely achieved.
In November 2013 we performed Handel`s Messiah in Holy Trinity Church, Folkestone. Although this is probably the best loved of all choral works it contains some very difficult passages. We always perform The Messiah `complete` even though this makes quite a lengthy programme, as making cuts destroys the artistic shape that Handel intended. We had a large enthusiastic audience and the final chords of the `Amen` chorus were greeted with a standing ovation.
The programme for our Good Friday concert in The Leas Cliff Hall was chosen to mark the Centenary of the start of the First World War. `The Armed Man` by Karl Jenkins was performed with passion and energy and impressed the large audience. The concert concluded with the contrasting and peaceful `Requiem` by Gabriel Fauré.
Posting on our Facebook page - "My whole hearted congratulations to you on your performance this evening of Karl Jenkins `The Armed Man`. I was moved to tears." ...P.S.
The summer concert in St. Leonard`s Church, a contribution to the Hythe festival, consisted of Bruckner Motets, traditional Spirituals and Rutter`s Gloria. The choir was pitted against brass, percussion and a powerful organ with exciting, strong rhythms and syncopations.
On 29th November 2014 we performed a "Winter Prom" concert supported by the Amberley Symphony Orchestra at the Saga Pavilion, Sandgate. This concert included Finlandia, Sleigh Ride, The William Tell Overture, Songs from My Fair Lady, Fantasia on Christmas Carols with a Traditional Proms Finale. The Hawkinge Gazette reviewed this performance on the 2nd December 2014 and amongst the comments made were :- "The Amberley Orchestra gave a spirited performance and the choir were clearly enjoying themselves particularly in the songs from My Fair Lady."
This was a really exciting, contrasting and very enjoyable year for the choir.