Sunday 25 August 2013

Choral Greats

Kenwood House, London


Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
Conductor - Roderick Dunk

Hurrah! Classical concerts are back where they belong at Kenwood House, in the grounds of this beautiful 18th century mansion, tucked away on a corner of Hampstead Heath. The venue’s layout has been shaken up a bit and where once orchestras played from across the other side of the House’s ornamental lake, the whole event now takes place on the Estate’s sprawling lawns that stretch down to the lakeside, with video screens and well balanced amplification ensuring that everyone can see and hear what’s going on.

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under the baton of Roderick Dunk got the evening’s celebration of Choral Greats underway with O Fortuna! from Orff’s Carmina Burana. It’s one of the most recognisable pieces of classical melody (and if that name, or any others in this review, mean nothing to you, YouTube them and all will come flooding back) and Dunk’s wonderful symphonic sound, including Orff’s majestic gong to introduce the vocal power of the 100-strong Royal Choral Society, made for a thrilling start to the nights entertainment.

The programme listed an ambitious selection of 25 items and the selection was unashamedly populist. Whilst the bias was clearly towards choral and opera, if the evening had been called Classical Greats, (with the second half treats of Elgar’s Nimrod and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra not usually found on Choral programmes) no one would really have cared. The event was not one for cultural snobs, but rather a glorious choice of some of the most famous and beautiful classical music written. And judging by the number of young children present in the audience, (well, who can resist fireworks) the evening may just possibly have been an introduction too, to a time when music was written to be performed by nearly 200 skilled individuals in perfect harmony.

A night of Choral Greats would not be complete without a spot of Carmen and soprano Janet Mooney’s Habanera hit the spot as the rain fell on the enchanted throng enjoying her arias. Other beautiful solos included a spine-tingling Nessun Dorma from Alun Rhys-Jenkins and a sparkling O mio babbino caro, sung by sister soprano, Fiona Murphy.

As the second half unfolded, the first Kenwood classical concert of the season, evolved into the Last Night Of The Proms. Mooney returned to the stage, clad Britannia-like in a Union Jack cape seeing the evening off with a flourish of Elgar, Parry and Arne. By this point whilst the downpour might have been torrential, spirits were anything other than dampened and the flag-waving sing-alongs of Jerusalem, Rule Britannia with a firework festooned finale of Land Of Hope And Glory celebrated the patriotic beauty of these works in the grounds of one of England’s most beautiful houses.

On Friday August 30th, Live By The Lake will be screening the movie Singin In The Rain, accompanied again by the RPCO. Last night, an audience of several thousand were deliriously singing in the rain, for real. T’was a wonderful occasion, welcome back! 

The full programme of Live By The Lake runs until September 1st and can be accessed here.

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