“Behold, the sea!” is the dramatic opening to Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.
Portsmouth Choral Union took St Mary’s Church by storm with a remarkable performance of one of the most challenging works for an amateur choir. PCU are deservedly known as one of the region’s finest large choral societies and this concert enhanced their reputation.
The opening of the work holds enough drama and firepower for Nelson, even if the orchestral salvos were occasionally too strong for the choir. Once the battery of brass backed off a bit, the audience was treated to a well-schooled group of talented singers. The choir’s overall tone is excellent and their blend is first rate.
Vaughan Williams is known for his folk melodies and these were performed in a suitably jaunty fashion, conjuring up a vision of a 19th century Sally Port, replete with matelots. But this composer also uses the whole-tone scale, which provides a host of complex melodies to learn, with plenty of whirlpools for the unwary. But PCU has no unwary singers and negotiated Vaughan Williams’ reefs with panache.
At the helm was David Gostick, martialling his forces with precision and confidence.
Soloists were Soprano Lynsey Docherty and Baritone Jonathan Brown. The latter has a lovely voice but he unfortunately looked rather disinterested throughout the performance.
The excellent orchestra, Southern Pro Musica, gave a fine interpretation of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The only enigma is why St Mary’s Church wasn’t packed to the gunwales for this fantastically dramatic performance of fine music.