REVIEW: The Dream of Gerontius at St James’ Church

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A CAPACITY audience in St James’ Church, Louth, were privileged to hear, on Sunday November 20, Elgar’s rarely performed masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius staged by Louth Choral Society in conjunction with Southwell Choral Society and the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra.

This work is one of the most demanding in the choral repertoire and requires soloists of the highest calibre. John Graham-Hall (tenor) Christopher Maltman (bass baritone) and Leigh Woolf (mezzo soprano) brought the full expressive interpretation, majesty and drama required for the work.

The Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, led by Caroline Siriwardena, was in fine form throughout the work with a thrilling climax in Part 2.

The combined choir of two hundred voices added the final dimension with full ensemble singing which soared above the orchestra in the climax sections and all the parts were in fine voice.

The sections involving semi chorus and split chorus were most effective and the oratorio closed to rapturous applause after a poignant twelve-part Amen.

This work depends on an effective interpretation of Elgar’s setting of the text of the John Henry Newman’s poem The Dream of Gerontius and relies on the drama of Elgar’s writing to portray the meaning of the dark text covering the journey of a dying man of faith to the throne of judgement.

This performance was of the highest order made special by the accomplished conducting of Martin Pickering.

In conclusion, the logistics of staging such an effective and successful performance of this ambitious work is a credit to all concerned and in particular to the Musical Directors of the two choirs and their support staff.

Few choral societies outside the major cities would be able to stage this work and Louth is very fortunate to have such a choir.

There is a second performance on Saturday January 2 in Southwell Minster for anyone who missed the concert or wants to hear this Elgar masterpiece for a second time.

Review by John F Smith.