Crouch End Festival Chorus sails away with ambitious triple bill ****

Soprano Sarah Fox sings with the Crouch End Festival Chorus at Alexandra Palace Theatre

Soprano Sarah Fox sings with the Crouch End Festival Chorus at Alexandra Palace Theatre - Credit: David Winskill

A few concerts in and Crouch End Festival Chorus are really starting to look at home in Ally Pally's Victorian theatre.

The acoustic is fabulous and there is plenty of space for a 100 plus choir and accompaniment like Sunday’s excellent London Orchestra da Camera.

The first of an ambitious triple bill was Crossing the Bar - a poem by Tennyson set to music by Rani Arbo. Delivered a cappella, the Chorus perfectly captured the mournful but hopeful mood of this beautiful arrangement.

Poulenc’s Gloria took things up a level in ambition. The opening bars had audience members sitting up sharpish: a loud solo trumpet followed by more brass and strings for this thoroughly modern piece (1959) which carries weight, majesty and authority but also strong elements of humour.

Poulenc has raided the dressing up-box to make each element of this joyous work distinct: a bellicose fanfare followed by references to hoe-downs, spirituals and the feel of the soundtrack to a melodramatic spine chiller in the later movements. The rich variety gave the choir the opportunity to show their versatility and, with the terrific soprano Sarah Fox, they clearly enjoyed the culmination of the urgent shout of the Qui Sedes.

David Temple takes a bow at the end of the performance

CEFC conductor David Temple takes a bow at the end of the performance - Credit: David Winskill

Post interval there was another dramatic opening – Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony (apparently Delius’ immediate response on seeing the score was, in French, “Not too shabby, that.”)

The text is taken from Walt Whitman’s philosophical collection of verse; Leaves of Grass. It opens with a Force 10 of orchestra, fired up chorus and the words “Behold the sea itself.” The music is a grand melee of representations of storms, intercut with shanties, hornpipes and, I’m sure, a distant echo of Rule Britannia!

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Whitman’s verses move from sea to shore and a more spiritual reflection on humankind's relationship to the world, the universe and God.

A demanding piece for the Chorus who became totally immersed and animated in the complexities of the work, and were guided into harbour under the masterful direction of Captain David Temple. Tremendous.

CEFC at Alexandra Palace 2022

The Crouch End Festival Chorus - Credit: David Winskill