A Night at the Opera

The society’s  Summer Concert for 2010 took place at

at Tempsford Village Hall

Conductor: Karen Brown

Soloists:   Alison Eames   Sarah Bruce   Chris Phelps

Accompanist:  Anne Wright


Programme Notes


It’s not just the BBC leading the resurgence of enjoyment of Opera; Biggleswade & District Choral Society’s ‘A Night at the Opera’ was right on the button as well on Saturday at Tempsford Village Hall.  As ‘Glyndebourne comes to Bedfordshire’, the cool, overcast evening was something of a disappointment for the picnickers; although several intrepid groups stuck it out outside, the majority decamped indoors for their pre-concert spread in the particularly well-appointed and comfortable hall.  But the concert itself soon warmed the sell-out audience and banished any thoughts of the weather.

The Basses were happy

The Basses were happy

The flamboyantly colourful 53-strong choir – what a lovely change from boring old black and white – got the evening off to a splendid start with Verdi’s stirring ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’.  It was the beginning of a pleasing and varied whistle-stop tour of delightful and familiar favourites from no less than 15 operas and 11 composers, delivered in 4 languages.  Conductor Karen Brown acknowledged that she hadn’t been at her most popular when telling the choir there would be so many foreign tongue-twisters, but for the most part they coped well and were rewarded with a final chorus half in English and half in Italian!  Karen, completing her first year as Conductor, has already enhanced the musicality of the choir.  She produced a beautifully balanced programme and with Anne Wright, whose faultless accompaniment added greatly to the evening, drew a wide range of musical colour from the choir.

Chris & Alison

The Choral Society has remarkable talent in its soloists.  Soprano Alison Eames, in particular, gave poised and exciting performances that showed off her depth of quality and range.  The more reflective pieces of Mozart and Purcell were beautiful but her two Puccini arias, ‘O mio babbino caro’ and ‘Vissi d’arte’ were exquisite, as was the delicious ‘Flower Duet’ she sang with Karen.  Sarah Bruce, rich and expressive in her lower soprano register, gave nicely contrasting performances of two very different characters in Carmen’s ‘Habanera’ and ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ from The Mikado.  Chris Phelps, a powerful tenor, was sell-suited to lead the ‘Chorus of Wedding Guests’ from ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ in a foot-tapping close to the first half.  He joined Alison and the choir in the equally rousing Brindisi drinking song from Verdi’s ‘La traviata’.

Ali and Les

Ali and Les

The highlight?  There were many but the extra item added to the programme on the night was rather special. Les King, now in his 60th year as a Choral Society member, joined Alison to sing ‘You’ll lay your hand in mine, dear’ from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. It was a light-hearted moment, delightfully performed, and drew the warmest and longest applause of the night.

The concert ended with the ‘Anvil Chorus’ from ‘Il trovatore’, complete with expertly struck anvil and tongue-in-cheek ‘tuning’ beforehand.  It was an enthusiastically and competently executed evening that gave a lot of pleasure and the Society thoroughly deserved its encore demanded at the end.  More please!