‘Amazing’ Saffron Walden Choral Society debut concert at stunning Saffron Hall

The Curtain Call on Saturday

The Curtain Call on Saturday - Credit: Archant

Saffron Walden Choral Society’s sell out performance of the Verdi Requiem on Saturday night in the new Saffron Hall has attracted widespread praise.

Town mayor Keith Eden, who attended the event alongside mayoress Sandra Eden, his wife, described the hall as a “wonderful venue”.

“What an occasion!” he added. “The mayoress and I thought the whole evening was wonderful. We were amazed that Saffron Walden could offer such a professional production with so much talent.

Bass soloist James Oldfield said it was “a privilege to sing with such a wonderful choral society, and in such a stunning new venue”, while soprano soloist Ann-Helen Moen added that the concert hall had “excellent acoustics” .

Equally fulsome was the review from Colin Durrant, conductor of Imperial College Choir and the London University Chamber Choir: “The enthusiastic and lengthy applause at the end revealed the audience’s approval not only of the performance of Verdi’s fine Requiem by Saffron Walden Choral Society, but also of the new Saffron Hall. Entering the auditorium, I had to pinch myself to check that I was only a mile or so from my home and in a small market town in the precincts of its county high school. It is quite simply beautiful.

“The hall affords much pleasure to the ear as well as to the eye and, on this occasion the large forces of SWCS, the Chameleon Orchestra and four soloists came together in a superbly engineered acoustic.

“Verdi’s masterpiece is a luxurious operatic bath and a splendid choice to have as a ‘countdown’ event to the official opening of the hall just three weeks down the line. From the outset it was evident the choir was in fine form and well prepared. The singing was crystal clear and warm, portraying a sense of both mystery and excitement – most notably in the Dies Irae section – vividly enhanced by an accomplished orchestra. In a concert hall such as this, we can all see each other with ease – the raked seating is comfortable and the choir is in full view.

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“Of particular note was the mezzo-soprano, Gaynor Keeble, whose rich sounds suited the operatic idiom of Verdi’s score – her Liber scriptus was beautifully sung. The other soloists, Ann-Helen Moen, Ben Thapa and James Oldfield were occasionally over-powered by the orchestra, but provided tasteful contrast to the choral sections. The Agnus Dei with its delicate solo sections and quiet choral singing was notably sensitive and expressive.

“Janet Wheeler conducted with assurance and skillfully brought together the large forces to give us a real treat. While I might have wished for more daring tempi in the Sanctus and the final Libera me Domine sections, this was a wonderful first outing in the new hall: the choir sounded fabulous.

“Saffron Walden can be rightly proud of its new hall and its well-established choral society.”

The society’s next appearance in Saffron Hall will be on Saturday, March 15, 2014 when they will perform the Bach Magnificat and Handel’s Dixit Dominus.

The Spirit of Christmas concerts will take place in St Mary’s Church on Saturday, December 6.