Henry Purcell’s 'Dido and Aeneas' and 'Come Ye Sons of Art'

  • Posted on: 27 June 2016
  • By: richard

The Royston Crow predicted ‘Purcell plus will be fitting final flourish’ for Royston Choral Society’s first season under its new Musical Director, Andrew O’Brien and so it was.

Reviewer turned choir member, Neil Heywood, writes: ‘Dido’ marked the end of Andrew O’Brien’s first season with Royston Choral Society, and it did so with a certain flourish. The choir has been very fortunate in its musical directors in recent years. Now, with the Brahms Requiem and Dido, our major offerings for 2015-16 under our collective belt, its not too early to say that with Andrew, that positive record still stands.

The Brahms was a huge challenge, but so, in it’s way was Dido; it is a true opera, and the choir must adapt its delivery to reflect the drama, from a raucous fortissimo sailors’ chorus to the closing rapt elegy for the dead Queen. Andrew’s job was to charm and chivvy his singers to produce the agile, accurate renderings which Purcell’s music requires. To sing the music is not, perhaps, too difficult; but to sing it well is a much more demanding proposition. That was Andrew’s challenge and the choir rose to it. Our soloists too, were excellent. Laurence Williams who we first met in the Brahms in the autumn, was a convincing Aeneas, by turns dominant and pleading, and both Nina Bennet and Sophie Gallagher impressed as Dido and Belinda. Other soloists were promoted from the ranks of the choir. Of them, Ann Hoptroff excelled as a compellingly evil Sorceress. There were many others, too many to mention, both in Dido and in the royal birthday ode ‘Come Ye Sons of Art’ which opened the concert, and all performed with great verve and musicality.

So a successful summer performance and, we think, a wholly successful year for Andrew O’Brien. During his year the choir has grown in numbers and in musicality. Of course there is further to go, but under Andrew’s capable and inspiring leadership, we think RCS is capable of climbing still higher. His professional life becomes yet more demanding as he takes over his new role at Haileybury School and we are proud and grateful that Andrew can still spare his Tuesday evenings for us in Royston

Neil is not alone in his views:

‘Since Andrew O’Brien was appointed as Musical Director at Royston Choral Society, he has certainly challenged our musical ability. He has provided support and encouragement to singers of all abilities in this community choir. So much so, that we were able to put on Purcell’s complex Dido and Aeneas with confidence and I think we pulled it off’
Choir member SH

'..Thanks to alI the committee and also to Andrew. I have thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsals, and the concert tonight was the icing on the cake…. I look forward to Messiah in the autumn. (Dido) was the icing on the cake'

'A cracking concert, probably one of the best we’ve ever done. Soloists excellent, RCS soloists too. It was great for the choir to ’get into character’ and do something different. New people signing up!'

One of the soloists from the November Brahms German Requiem concert said he thought the choir sounded amazing and he could see a huge improvement since the Brahms concert.. ‘a privilege to sing with us’

Audience comments:
'Fabulous concert last night'
'Absolutely brilliant concert!! Well done Andrew and all involved'

And our MD?

'What an outstanding concert! It was a great end to a fantastic year Thank you to you all.'