Reviews

Mozart’s Requiem, St Cuthbert’s Church, Thetford

24th March 2018

How can town with a, largely undeserved, challenging reputation, offer such a sublime cultural experience so totally under the radar?

I am an unschooled appreciator of music, just as happy attending Saffron Hall to hear the Britton Symphonia play the next instalment of Beethoven’s Symphony cycle, as I am attending the Barbican for a Raymond Gubby Christmas Classics at the Barbican.

Hearing, through personal contacts within the choir, that the Thetford Singers would be performing Mozart’s Requiem in my home town, I was therefore intrigued at the prospect.

After the delightful treat that was the Christmas Concert which blended an evening of Thetford Singers with the fantastic Eboracum Baroque, a few months ago, I was sure that at the least, an enjoyable evening was on offer.

Well, whatever I write to share the evening will fall short of the sublime experience I shared with the packed house at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Thetford.

A good comparison might be had by considering those precious moments when the superstars of rock, tired of the sheer scale of success, perform an unannounced evening set at their local pub.

Chris Parsons has shaped the Thetford Singers, a community singing group open to all, in to an instrument of melodic beauty, and partnered with the newly formed exceptional Newmarket Chamber Orchestra last night, the full technical glory of Mozart’s work was explored.

At this point I must mention the soloists whose clarity and power were harnessed down to the scale of St Cuthbert’s quite magically. Whilst the Soprano Tamsin Raitt was hidden from the view of many by the ecclesiastical architecture, her voice rang from the very rafters. Alto Laura Baldwin’s tones attenuated the links between the soloists and the choir providing a reflective quality to the power of Jamie Woollard’s Bass notes and the fresh clarity of the Tenor Owen Winter. How does Chris get them on board?

If I had not been there myself, I would not have believed that such a small venue in small town Norfolk, could host such a big moment in musical expression. But perhaps that says more about my own ‘provincial’ attitude.

The choir has been entertaining the local area for over 40 years, has a Master of Performance as its conductor who is evidently able to connect with some of the best musicians I have heard, amateur or professional.

The fact that these events come together, regularly in my home town, is surely as much a cause for celebration as was the performance last night.

Whether it was the musical majesty of the ‘Rex Tremendae’, sheer power of the Duncan Druce version of the ‘Agnus Dei’ or the achingly beautiful pain of the ‘Lachrimosa’, the nuanced shades of interpretation of Mozart’s last work was inspiring. By the final ‘Lux Aeterna’, for the first time, I was starting to understand the Requiem less in terms of death, than of salvation, resurrection and eternal life. How appropriate at this Easter time.

The Requiem has previously always struck me as a demanding work, for both performers and audience. Not last night. I understood the sense of the mass as if were sung in English from the clarity of musical expression evident from singers and orchestra.

Chris Parson’s control of the performers ensured that their one unified sound not only filled the church, but inflated its walls. This was the Albert Hall, these were the greatest players of their time and this was a very special experience.

How lucky to have been there, and how lucky I am to live here? I am sure that around our county, many more fantastic artists’ endeavours are thrilling the lucky few locals who hear about them, after my recent experiences hearing the Thetford voices, I can only encourage you to go and see them for yourselves.

Jon Ford