Saturday 16 November 2019, Nailsea Methodist Church

Nailsea Choral Society did it again! Its members put on another wonderfully prepared evening of polished music-making, supported by eye-catching publicity, a slick box office operation, Paul Cronin’s helpful programme notes and the usual welcoming atmosphere established by the Society’s chairman Antony Evans.

Although Haydn’s innovative musical imagery might be considered naive by 21st century standards, in his abundantly melodic ‘Creation’ he produced a delightful picture book, deploying his indisputable mastery of orchestral writing and instrumentation, aptly representing in sound the wonders of this world including twinkling stars, raging storms, sinuous worms, buzzing flies, heavy-footed elephants, soaring eagles and sublimely tuneful nightingales, all 150 years before David Attenborough and the BBC Wildlife programmes.

The ‘narrator’ angels, soprano Colette Boushell-Groves, tenor Andrew Boushell and bass Marcus Evans, skilfully embraced their individual opportunities to portray this colourful narrative while the choir was supremely ready to play the part of the heavenly hosts extolling the architect’s skills and virtues at the end of each stage of the project which covers the arrival on earth of a phenomenal variety of landscapes, weather, flora and fauna, and culminates with blissful Adam and Eve in Paradise. A few minor cuts were made in this performance including, perhaps surprisingly given the conductor’s origins, the page covering the creation of great w(h)ales but no harm was done.

From the outset, it was clear why Nailsea Choral Society under its nationally acclaimed Music Director, Tom Williams has achieved such a following that it is in the enviable, if slightly embarrassing position of having to close its doors to newcomers, now that the 90+ members have to be shoe-horned into the rehearsal venue. The opening bars set the tone for the evening: the orchestra then joined by bass soloist and the choir, singing from memory, seized and delighted the capacity audience in a thrilling transition from the hushed chaos of darkness to the dazzling emergence of LIGHT. Tom Williams knew exactly how to shape and optimise the dramatic potential of this and the other many special effects that Haydn uses throughout this work. His soloists, all with operatic experience were equally up to speed on this theatrical telling of a familiar story. Local soloist, Marcus Evans, alongside two outstanding professionals and the excellent twenty-six or so players in the ‘scratch’ orchestra, distinguished himself by the warmth, clarity and accuracy of his engagement with the capacity audience.

The choir was in excellent voice throughout and the balance with the full orchestral sound was fine, at least from this listener’s perspective. The challenging sections of tricky fugal writing in the choruses were handled with confidence, artistry and evident enjoyment, which is surely what music-making should be always about, whether by amateurs or top professionals.

Congratulations to everyone, especially maestro Tom, and thank you for a hugely enjoyable evening!

Andrea Argent

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