Derek Ansell, Douai Abbey - 20th April 2013

The following review was written for Newbury Weekly News about our concert at Douai Abbey:

One of the most professional-sounding choirs in the region, Reading Phoenix Choir came to Douai on Saturday evening with a wide ranging programme of music, offering 16 varied compositions.

The old favourite Zadok The Priest began with the well-disciplined voices rising dramatically in Handel’s popular coronation anthem. An impressive thing about this choir, under the sensitive direction of David Crown, is their ability to use dynamics very effectively, from a whisper of sound to a rousing crescendo, a method of performance that works particularly well in a dramatic work such as this.

It worked well with the Fauré Sanctus as well, the voices in a seemingly circular movement, soft at first but rising up majestically. Rachmaninoff’s Bogoroditse Devo began with the plaintive sound of the lower voices building gently with alto and sopranos coming in later to harmonise the blend, and, to put it crudely, bring it to the boil.

There was plenty of this sort of light and shade to be heard with music by Parry, Thomas Morley and Holst spicing up a well-chosen musical programme. The anonymous 15th-century sacred carol Gaudete added further musical variation and Christopher Enston’s muscular reading of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue at the organ added yet more variety, as did the concluding traditional spirituals Nobody Knows and Steal Away.

The concert was in aid of Prior’s Court School which supports and educates children and young people with autism.

Derek Ansell (Newbury Weekly News)

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