As a choir member of late ‘more in the breach than in observance’, and having heard tell of some recent developments in performances, I was looking forward to seeing the results when I attended St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir’s concert in Stratford St Mary on 30 September 2017.
The first half of the concert started on what to me was happy and familiar ground: some well-remembered Welsh hymns and standards, including a fluid performance of Eric Whitaker’s ‘Seal Lullaby’ (a personal favourite) and an ever-dramatic Morte Criste.
The ringing in of the changes came in the second half, which introduced an expanded accompaniment, with electric guitar and bass joining the choir’s piano instrumentals. The piece ‘An American Trilogy’ was well chosen to introduce the new sound, and, played with sensitivity, this blended very well with the choir and piano accompaniment.
St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir is fortunate to be supported by the combination of quality musicianship and sense of fun which is brought by director Mark Jefferson and accompanist Calvin Goymer. This was well in evidence in the performance of ‘Rhythm of live’, performed by the choir with enthusiasm but not lacking care and clarity despite the conductor taking a seat at the piano, while Mark and Calvin entertained with an ebullient accompaniment.
Another introduction new to my ears was a selection of songs from Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It is not easy for a choir to achieve the relaxed-sounding approach to rhythm and timing which this style demands, and fight against the temptation to revert to rigid ‘march time’, but SEMVC have clearly made strides; and again the smooth guitar accompaniment complementing the choir well and helping to set an easy feel. I particularly enjoyed ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart,’ which hit all the right notes.
Credit must also go to violin soloist Elena Lyutserina, ably accompanied by Steve Cook, whose selection of pieces brought a pleasant contrast of mood between the choral performances. The combination of violin and ukulele was a surprise but worked very well – in the Russian pieces, I wondered if I could hear the strains of a balalaika through the uke.
My thanks go to Mark and the choir for an enjoyable evening and for making an ‘occasional member welcome. Also to Tony Farr – for his patience while I collected my thoughts.