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Reviews of past performances

Winter Concert 2019. Bach: Christmas Oratorio

St Mary's Church, Dorchester, December 7th 2019

"THERE can be few better ways of acknowledging the coming celebratory season than listening to beautiful music composed by Bach and performed by Dorchester Choral Society and the Corelli Baroque Orchestra.
From the lively beginning played by the brass section to the unusual pitch of the rare oboe d’amore, the orchestra gave a performance to remember as welcome guests from Cheltenham and beyond who brought Bach’s genius to splendid life in the appropriate setting of the town church.
Under the expert guidance of conductor Colin Howard, the singing group brought dedication to this challenging work sung entirely in German, helped in every way by the four professional soloists who gave the Oratorio the joy and emotion of Christmas to the near capacity audience.
The soloists, soprano Amy Carson, alto Andrew Stewart, tenor Ruairi Bowen and bass Edmund Saddington enriched the evening and gave a certain encouragement to the audience when they were invited to sing some of the choruses.
As the choral society continues to  grow in expertise and confidence, their programme for 2020 is bound to be well supported, starting with a concert featuring Dvorak’s Stabat Mater on March 21st at the same church venue.
And for those who would love to join in the singing, there is an opportunity to do so in May when choruses from Handel and William Walton will be performed by anyone who goes along for the day, definitely an opportunity not to be missed."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.


Autumn Concert 2019. Mozart: Requiem, Solemn Vespers. Salieri: Kyrie in D. Gjeilo: Northern Lights.

St Mary's Church, Dorchester, October 12th 2019

"WORLD  class music performed by a remarkably talented group of singers and musicians gave a thrilling experience to an audience on a dull wet autumn evening that turned into sublime waves of  sunshine and joy for everyone in the attending this amazing concert.
Top of the list for this carefully selected programme  was Mozart’s Requiem which was preceded by the composer’s Solemn Vespers and Salieri’s Kyrie from his Mass in D. 
These devotional  works, sung in Latin,  were written to be performed as an important part of a church service but it is clear from the first few bars  of the Requiem that for Mozart, the music was really all about a theatrical performance with choral singing at a majestic pace beautifully toned in with its moving orchestral accompaniment.  
Under the inspired direction of conductor Colin Howard, himself a noted vocalist as well as a valued musical  entrepreneur, the singers and orchestral members all performed with dedication and excellence, along with four professional soloists who added their expertise to the experience.
A welcome addition to the programme was a modern piece by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo whose Northern Lights, an unaccompanied choral work, was inspired by him seeing the stunning scene up in the heavens to which his piece lends its name.
Dorchester Choral Society will be performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on December 7th at the same venue which is certainly going to be a hugely enjoyable seasonal treat not to be missed by anyone who loves good music beautifully played by skilful musicians who clearly love what they do."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.

Winter Concert 2018. Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Vasks: Pater Noster, Ferguson: Word over All, Schumann: Andante and Variations for two pianos.

St Mary's Church, Dorchester, December 1st 2018

"This local 60-plus-strong choral group, with their Director of Music Colin Howard, like to play it big and Brahms’ composition, A German Requiem fills the bill nicely with its emotionally charged message of mourning and hope.
Sung throughout in German, the  work is normally accompanied by a full orchestra but this production managed very well with two pianos and a modest percussion which certainly gave the choir plenty of opportunity to be heard at full volume which was not only different but very rewarding.
Soprano Abbi Temple and baritone Andrew de Silva contributed solos pieces while Sam Hanson and Semra  Kurutac gave spectacular performances as piano accompanists in a work that filled the church with beautiful sound.
A world premiere entitled Word Over All took place in the first half of the concert and it was performed in the presence of its composer Barry Ferguson who is a noted organist and composer. The composition is short but sweet and the words are a touching testimony to peace which were written by Walt Whitman.
With an acapella piece to start the evening along and a Schumann Andante for two pianos to complete the programme, the capacity audience had every reason to appreciate this fine choir which Colin Howard has brought to a professional standard."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.

Charpontier's Messe de Minuit by Charpontier, Adam Lay-y-Bounden by Matthew Martin and St Nicolas by Benjamin Britten.

St Mary's Church, Dorchester, March 17th 2018

"‘DORCHESTER Choral Society likes to offer a challenge both to its singers and to its audiences and under the inspired direction of its conductor, Colin Howard, the result is almost invariably an enriching  emotional  experience for all  those who support them.

The pieces  performed at this latest concert were by English composers including Holst, Vaughan Williams and Stanford but they mostly comprised somewhat lesser known works which were  mainly  of a deeply spiritual nature such are not always particularly associated with their reputation.

With a full orchestra augmented by students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, along with renowned solo baritone Gavin Carr, the choral singers provided an evening of starry quality that, although not especially exciting, was always soul-searching and heartfelt in it delivery.

A welcome touch was the choral work Everyone Sang by Stephen McNeff which was first performed by the Society when their much loved director Christine Page commissioned the work three years ago and it came as no surprise that all the performers gave it their best.

And if Holst’s Hymn to Jesus went over the heads of many, it can surely be said that his ever popular St Paul’s Suite brought fond smiles to an audience who braved the cold and snow to enjoy a concert by a group of musicians that never fail to please.

There will be three short church-based Outreach Concerts in June at West Knighton, Puddletown and Dorchester, all them free, what more could anyone ask for?"

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.

Charpontier's Messe de Minuit by Charpontier, Adam Lay-y-Bounden by Matthew Martin and St Nicolas by Benjamin Britten.

St Mary's Church, Dorchester, November 4th 2017

"‘Always ready to test their capabilities, this successful local choir paid tribute to one of Britain’s greatest modern composers when they gave a performance of Benjamin Britten’s St Nicolas, a cantata that blends words and music as only he knew.

The evening began with Charpontier’s Messe de Minuit, a modest yet pleasing choral work that gave some of the society’s singers an opportunity to perform nicely as soloists.

Under the expert guidance of the musical director Colin Howard, the evening otherwise belonged to Britten and, with a mainly string orchestra paving the way, the singers were augmented by members of the Dorchester Gallery Choir, youngsters from local schools who added a welcome youthful touch to the evening,

Among their numbers were three boy sopranos, William Bishop, Joseph Burdge and Tobias Lyndley who performed their solo roles with confidence and skill, a joy to hear.

The Cantata tells the story of St Nicolas, the original Santa Claus whose life is movingly told in words and music, sung with passion and clarity by the choral group and helped along by an enthusiastic audience during the singing of two well known hymns.

Special mention must be made of solo tenor Ruairi Bowen who stepped in at the last minute to replace the previously booked singer. Ruairi is an experienced and gifted performer who is in his late 20s and a man of considerable choral experience. His major solo role as Nicolas gave the work a dramatic impact and richness that was entirely appropriate and envigorating.

The Choral Society will be performing Handel’s Messiah at St Mary’s Church on December 16th, an evening not to be missed."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.

Photo Kate Beatt

First German performance of Diptych by Stephen McNeff, Hans-Martin Kiefer and Heinz-Hermann Grube. Mass in C by Mozart.

St Andreas Kirche, Lübbecke, Germany, October 22nd 2016

"‘Beautiful and Good’: Contemporary Music and Mozart’s Mass in C were joined together in an experience of sound in St Andreas.

Lübbecke. The audience sat in tense expectancy in the pews of the St Andreas Church. Contemporary music in the same breath as Mozart, not to mention two first performances. Can that go well and sound beautiful?
It can. Dorchester Choral Society and the St Andreas Kantorei showed how, accompanied and supported by the Opus 7 Orchestra and soloists Hanna Zumsande, Cornelia Samuelis (both sopranos), Mirko Ludwig (tenor) and Andreas Jören (Bass).
Heinz-Hermann Grube, director of church music, in whose well-proven hands lay the overall direction, steered his piece for choir and strings "Quaerite bonum ut vivatis" (seek good so that you may live).
"Was ist zu Tun" (What should I do ?) consists of musical sketches in four movements that Hans-Martin Kiefer wrote for this concert. He has been choir-leader and organist in Bünde for twenty years as well as head of the Evangelical Church Music High School of Westfalia in Herford. Texts by Hans-Dieter Hüsch and words from the Bible are combined.
The text for "Everyone Sang" for choir and orchestra also comes from two sources, namely from Thomas Traherne and Siegfried Sassoon. The Irish-born composer Stephen McNeff now lives in London and came from there to East Westfalia for the first German performance of his piece. The work is dedicated to Christine Page, director until her sudden death in 2015 of the Dorchester Choral Society, and who was closely involved in the planning for this concert. McNeff isn’t only active in church music but also writes operas and expresses his love for brass music. Speaking to the New Westfalian he revealed how highly he values the high standard of choral music in Germany and enjoys the warm hospitality. Music should be a language that brings and binds people together, breaks barriers and overcomes barriers.
Brexit would certainly have to deal with technical difficulties but long-standing close partnerships such as that between the Dorchester and Lübbecke choirs should not be weakened, hopes the Irishman, who will continue to remain in the EU.
The last section of the concert went back more than 200 years in musical history, when Popes and Emperors could dictate how church music should sound – that is, not secular and above all nor operatic. Nonetheless, Mozart’s Mass in C (minor) contains coloratura sections everyone would recognise as operatic. The choir, soloists and orchestra performed the unfinished work as edited by Richard Maunder. The two sopranos, tenor and bass sparkled with sensitivity and vocal expertise.
The Lübbecke choirmaster eschewed any announcement, leaving all information on the concert to the printed programme.
Originally the twin choir from Bayeux should also have taken part but had to withdraw from the project. The idea of the concert should be to bring together in song different generations and distinctive Christian cultures.
The notion of ‘thunderous applause’ was made a reality by the audience’s hands and feet."

Photos and Artuicle by Robert Rolf Grundmann, Neue Westfaelische. Translated by William Evans.

World Première of Diptych by Stephen McNeff, Hans-Martin Kiefer and Heinz-Hermann Grube. Mass in C by Mozart.

St Mary's Church, Dorchester. October 15th 2016

"Celebrations were in the air at the town choral society’s latest concert where a world premiere, a twin town cooperative effort and a heartfelt tribute to a great lady conjoined to produce an emotional and melodious evening of friendship and thanksgiving.
The original idea for a united musical composition between Lübbecke in Germany and Dorchester came from the local choir’s former director of music, Christine Page, who passed away last year.  
A joint effort to complete the scheme has resulted in a glorious choral work which was performed by the 100plus combined choirs of the two towns to produce a soaring and ultimately joyous work in a world premiere performance that is certain to resonate for many years to come.  
The three composers of the Diptych are Stephen McNeff, Hans-Martin Kiefer and Heinz-Hermann Grube, who each contributed a piece demonstrating their own particular style and it is greatly to the credit of conductor Colin Howard that he brought cohesion and discipline to the work, no mean feat when three languages – English, German and Latin – are involved.  Top marks also to the singers who rose to the challenge with amazing skill and enthusiasm.
The finale of the concert was Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, beautifully presented by the fine orchestra and the choir with four solo guest artists. The familiar work was given a thoroughly professional airing and if the shortage of male choral singers slightly dented the impact of some aspects of the piece, it nevertheless rounded off an evening of top class music for which the county town can be very proud.
The choral society’s next concert is a Christmas Special on Saturday 10th December at St Mary’s Church, Dorchester."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Photo by Andrew Wood

The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff

March 12th 2016

"Dorchester Choral Society attracted a full house for this popular classical choral work in which the singers came close to outnumbering the audience, augmented as they were by a substantial children’s choir from local schools.

The evening opened with Constant Lambert’s jazz piece Rio Grande which was a welcome addition to their repertoire and paved the way for the main work with its strident percussive overtones.

Needless to say, Carl Orff’s iconic work dominated the concert, a piece that most of us know from hearing it as background music in television adverts although few of us had any idea about the meaning of the lyrics as the singers deliver their words in either High German or Latin, languages that not many of us understand with any fluency.

Accompanied by two pianos and an impressive percussion section, the singers brought to the work a spirit and passion that was exciting to be part of, the youngsters bravely tackling the foreign words.

The composer clearly meant that the musical accompaniment should be as important as the vocalists because the clash of symbols and thundering of drums was a dominant feature of the concert and the lofty space of the church added to the occasionally overloaded volume exerted by the instrumentalists.

Professional solo singers contributed to the evening which was under the leadership of Colin Howard and special mention must go to pianists Sam Hanson and Semra Kuratac who performed a stunning display of musical talent.

Worthy of note is that many of the audience members had also attended an open rehearsal of Carmina Burana two weeks beforehand in which they were invited to take part, an innovative idea that undoubtedly helped fill the seats for the concert and which the society may well offer again.

Their next appearance is in October when they will be joining with visitors from Lubbecke for a world première work as well as Mozart’s Mass in C Minor."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Christine Page Memorial Concert:

Duruflé Requiem, Brahms Motet "O Heiland reiß",

Elgar Nimrod, Elgar The Music Makers

December 2015

"DORCHESTER Choral Society has recovered amazingly well from the loss of its enthusiastic and talented musical director, thanks in no small part to the high standard that the singers managed to reach under the tuition of Christine Page and to the new man at the top, Colin Howard. This concert, devised in part by Christine herself before her untimely death in April, was introduced by her husband Brian who paid a fitting tribute to her vibrant love for choral music, since as a gifted singer herself, it was a genre she understood very well.

The evening unsurprisingly attracted a capacity audience, much of the income generated being in aid of the Weldmar Hospice in Dorchester. The performance opened with an a capella Brahms Motet and concluded with the iconic Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations and his less well known but beautifully melodic "The Music Makers". 

With fine orchestral accompaniment, the other important work of the concert was the magnificent Requiem by Duruflé with its full emotional spectrum that the choral singers delivered with integrity and passion while mezzo soprano Susan Mackenzie Park added a rich tone to her solo pieces in spite of being occasionally a little overwhelmed by the instrumentalists.

Although Christine will be much missed, it is good to know that her legacy continues to thrive within the community. 

The society’s next event will be a Come and Sing Day of Carmina Burana on Saturday February 27th at the United Church, South Street to which they are inviting members of the public to join them to sing this famous choral work."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

The Creation by Joseph Haydn

March 2015

"Hat's off to DORCHESTER Choral Society who gave a magnificent performance of The Creation on Saturday evening at St Mary's Church, Dorchester. The gentleman sitting next to me said “I hope you're going to give it an A star!” Indeed.

The soloists, choir and orchestra conducted by Colin Howard together completely captured the drama and spellbinding moments within Haydn' s great work. From the build up to  “Let There be Light” to the galloping finale, the audience was absorbed and moved by the story unfolding.

For me special mentions are due for soprano soloist Abbi Temple and her radiant, expressive singing both alone  and in the trios with her fellow gifted soloists tenor Ben Alden and bass William Houghton; and for the flautists Ken Smith and Jane Pickles, for their solos standing out for moments from the fine orchestra. Other favourites among many include The Hymn where chorus and soloists blended so beautifully.
Within  a quality performance such as this,  every individual must surely play their part to the full and these are just a few of the highlights from a superb evening of music making and sharing, helmed by guest conductor Colin Howard."

Jane Soole

Child of Our Time by Michael Tippett

November 2014

"Three countries, three choirs, all in perfect harmony - there can surely be no better way to mark the forgiveness and reconciliation which followed World War I than the three main protagonists joining together to create a bit of heaven.

The Bayeux L'Orphéon Choir and the Lübbecke Kantorei an St' Andreas joined forces with the local choral society to present an evening of profound spiritual depth as they presented Michael Tippett's oratorio, A Child of our Time.

The three choirs, under the inspired leadership of Christine Page, blended in unison to perform this emotionally charged masterpiece that challenges the audience to reflect on our humanity and understanding of others.

With fine solo performances by soprano Abbi Temple, mezzo Siân Menna, tenor Colin Howard and bass baritone William Houghton, there was hardly a dry eye in the house as they brought to life the hardship and turmoil suffered by the innocent in Tippett's personal account of real life events that took place during the last century.

The score ranged from the classical to the spiritual and the full orchestra led by Christina Scott and with Heather Reed on the organ, gave a depth and sweetness that was inspiring. With the evening also including Haydn's famous Te Deum, this was a performance to savour and the concert's reception was a fitting tribute to the dedicated team of singers and musicians who brought some magic to the town."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

B Minor Mass by Bach

March 2013

"Setting out to give a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor is a brave undertaking for any group with its demanding score and solo roles for musicians and singers alike but musical director Christine Page’s confidence in their ability was more than justified in her choice of the work for the local choral group.

In the event, the choral singers and orchestra rose magnificently to the challenge and the freezing weather did nothing to deter a capacity audience from enjoying a religious work that is both profound and joyous......... the excellence of the orchestra as well as individual members on trumpet, flute, oboe and strings whose solo delivery of accompanying melodies was absolutely stunning.......the choral singers and orchestra deserve equal praise for a musical treat that is challenging to perform but magical to hear when it is carried out with such dedication and flair."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Messe Solennelle by Rossini

March 2012

"From the opening chorus of the Kyrie to the final Agnus Dei, this is a joyous, celebratory musical feast full of gorgeous melodies and heart-warming harmonies. With musical accompaniment on two pianos and a harmonium, the work personified Rossini's operatic genius as lively choruses followed optimistic arias with only an occasional emotive reference to the depth of feeling of the Mass. The ever-growing number of choral singers clearly enjoyed the experience of working with an inspirational conductor Colin Howard in the absence of the society's regular leader, Christine Page."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Messiah by Handel

December 2011

"Dorchester Choral Society's rendition brought all the passion and emotional depth that the piece deserves. The capacity audience fell under the spell of this musical feast with a full orchestra, around 60 choral members and four stunning professional soloists under the immaculate direction of Christine Page. Her infectious enthusiasm permeates every corner of the work and brings a joy to the occasion that is irresistible. Performed almost in its entirety. Handel's masterpiece gave the soloists a wonderful opportunity to display their talents to the full, in particular Yaniv D'Or , a counter tenor with a stunning vocal range. Soprano Wendy Nieper , tenor Brian Parsons and Phillip Guy Bromley , bass baritone, completed the soloists in a concert that again demonstrated the excellence of the musical heritage that Dorset enjoys."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Misa Brevis in F by Haydn, and Prelude and Fuge in G, Hear My Prayer, Ave Maria and Piano Trio all by Mendelssohn

October 2011

"A superb evening of music making was enjoyed on Saturday when Dorchester Choral Society was joined by supremely gifted instrumentalists and solo singers. The programme was largely a celebration of Mendelssohn, although Haydn also made a strong contribution, with the choir performing his joyous Missa Brevis in F."

Jane Soole, Dorset Echo

Music for a Summer Evening with Gryphon School Choir

June 2011

"Dorchester Choral Society and the award winning Gryphon School Choir at Sherborne joined forces to present a concert of popular music that proved to be a celebration of the best of British, give or take a spot of foreign opera and American swing. Around 50 schoolgirls made an excellent job of upstaging the choir under the leadership of Non Davies as they performed folk songs in languages ranging from Czech to Zulu along with beautiful renditions of English melodies. The choral society brought their talents to the fore with a lovely arrangement of Gershwin music and their opening volleys of three operatic choruses were carried out with much style, helped in no small way by the keyboard accompaniment of Heather Reed."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Panis Angelicus, Requiem by Fauré, Pavane and Seven Last Words from the Cross by Cesar Frank with Dorchester Middle Schools Choir

March 2011

"Dorchester Choral society is on a winning streak. They continue to sell all the tickets for every concert whatever the programme - and St Mary's Dorchester is not a small church. No surprise, really. The choir has an excellent conductor - Christine Page - who communicates fully with her singers and seems to acquire more authority and sharper definition at every concert. The music began with the DASP (Dorchester Area Schools Partnership) Middle School Choir singing two difficult pieces by Cesar Franck - Pavane and Panis Angelicus; high quality singing, another tribute to their conductor, Christine Page. Dorchester Choral Society followed with Cesar Franck's Seven Words of Christ on the Cross, a profoundly moving work full of beautiful melodies and sometimes highly dramatic. It was unfamiliar to most of the audience and indeed much of Franck's music did not become famous until after his death in 1890. The final piece was Faure's Requiem where the choir was joined by Dorchester Middle School's Choir for a wonderful performance."

Janet Ferrett

Christmas Oratorio by JS Bach

December 2010

"A thrilling evening from both the choir and orchestra ..."

Jane Soole

9 Outreach Concerts in rural churches and Borough Gardens - Madrigals, Sacred Music, Dorset Rounds and Folk Songs

Summer 2010   

"To celebrate their 50th year the choral society toured churches giving free concerts to packed churches and great acclaim."

Gloria by Vivaldi, Nelson Mass by Haydn

March 2010

"Celebrating 50 years of singing together, the choral society put on a spectacular and uplifting concert to mark the occasion…. There is nothing amateurish about their performances and the packed house was treated to a glorious evening of music ..."

Marian Cox, Dorset Echo

Messiah by Handel

5th December 2009

"No problems arose for the singers and musicians at this celebratory performance under the superb direction of Christine Page who brought a majesty and sensitivity to the work that was truly memorable.

From the joy of the Hallelujah Chorus to the solemnity of final aria, this was a concert to savour which thoroughly deserved the standing ovation from the capacity audience."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Peter Hope 80th year Celebration - Song of Solomon by Peter Hope (Premier Performance)

17th October 2009

Dorchester Choral Society and Briantspuddle Singers - A Summer Concert

13th June 2009

German Requiem by Brahms (sung in German)

21st March 2009

"The choral society has never been in better form than with this great work and special mention on this occasion must go the tenors and bass singers who produced with great majesty both the sonorous tones of the funeral march as well as the triumphal and muscular melodies of the later movements."

Marion Cox, Dorset Echo

Mass in C Minor by Mozart, Gloria  by Poulenc

22nd November 2008

"A sublime show by choral society the music took the audience on a journey that was as uplifting as it was exciting memorable evening that attracted a capacity house in the spacious church."

Dorchester Choral Society and Kantorie of Andreaskirche Lubbecke - Magnificat by Rutter, Motets by Stanford, Exultate Jubilate by Wolfgang Mozart

29th June 2008

"Dorchester Choral Society and their twinned German choir Kantorei Andreaskirche, Lubbecke, together with a superb orchestra and captivating soloist, presented a remarkable concert on Sunday evening in St Mary's Church.

The two choirs had rehearsed separately and came together on Friday for a weekend of rehearsals, culminating in a performance of outstanding quality."

St. John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach

15th March 2008

"Dorchester Choral Society achieved a new depth of emotion with this performance of Bach's St John Passion. Every eye was on the conductor, Christine Page; every face animated and involved in the drama of this intensely emotional work. The partnership between conductor, choir, soloists and the orchestra was outstanding."