Mozart Mass in C minor, 9th June 2018

Orpheus Triumph

At Christ Church, Totland, on Saturday, Orpheus Singers gave us a night to remember with two very different works: Poulenc’s Gloria and Mozart’s C minor Mass.

The Gloria, first performed in 1951 in Boston, is full of rhythm, melody and excitement, with unexpected pauses and dramatic endings. The choir sang with panache and obvious enjoyment: the tenors and basses providing a sure foundation above which the sopranos and altos could sparkle. The organ too has a distinctive voice in the work, which gave rise to various moods from the slightly tense to the celebratory, ably interpreted by organist Peter King. The soloist, Susanna MacRae, has a wonderful voice with a bell like quality and clear diction. Jonathan Willcocks,  the guest conductor, gave spirited direction to which the choir responded with confidence.

After the interval we enjoyed Mozart’s marvellous, but unfinished C minor Mass, first performed at Salzburg in 1783. From the beginning we knew we were in for a sustained performance, for this large scale work showed Orpheus Singers at their best, with a wealth of sound which belied their numbers. The tenors were particularly strong and they with the basses, enabled the sopranos and altos to sing with a strength I haven’t heard from Orpheus before. With both solo sopranos, Miranda Johnson and Jessica Loeb, singing joyfully and with a sweet sound in their solos and duets, they were joined later in the Benedictus by tenor Samir Savant and baritone Martin Johnson. Then the harmony was complete in a powerful, uplifting sound.

While the work was originally sung with an orchestra, the organist played sympathetically, especially in the solos and duets, while providing the gravitas needed when the choir reached its zenith in the Osanna at the close. Jonathan Willcocks directed with clarity of purpose and the choir showed its character in the soaring choruses. This was surely one of their most memorable performances, judging by the rapturous applause at the end.