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Reviews

Newspaper Reviews

CONCERT REVIEW – VALENTINE SINGERS

at St. Andrew’s Church, The Drive Ilford

On the weekend before Christmas the Valentine Singers, along with their Community Chorus, gave a traditional carol concert in St Andrew’s Church, Ilford.  The choirs delivered a wonderful mix of carols and readings, both ancient and modern, which ably demonstrated their versatility.

Traditional favourites included Away in a manger and Ding, Dong! Merrily on High, both sung from memory, as well as some less well-known items including The Bells of Paradise. This is an arrangement by Philip Thicknes of a traditional work, and the choir’s sensitive performance was one of the highlights of the evening. The seasonal readings included Laurie Lee’s Christmas Landscape, a wonderfully evocative description of the countryside in winter and the birth of a new child.

The audience was treated to two organ solos from Duncan Paterson, and also was able to get to its feet and join in the singing of five Christmas hymns. Conductor Christine Gwynn was, as usual, equal to the task of bringing the best from the Singers. This was a very enjoyable evening in a fine church, and congratulations should go to all involved in putting together such a varied and interesting performance of music and prose.

John Buckmaster

 

 

Ein deutches Requiem by Brahms

15 March 2014

An appreciative audience attended a concert at St John’s Church, Epping given by the Valentine Singers under the excellent direction of their conductor, Christine Gwynn.

The concert commenced with two fine compositions by English composers, My Soul, there is a country by Hubert Parry and Justorum Animae by Charles Villiers Stanford.  The Parry is particularly apposite in the year that we remember the 100th anniversary of the Great War as it is a setting of Peace, a poem by Henry Vaughan, and was first performed in November 1918.  Both works were sung sensitively by the choir.

These were followed by the main event, Ein deutches Requiem by Brahms, in the version he transcribed for piano duet.  This Requiem is a huge challenge for any choir, and the Valentine Singers were equal to that challenge.  While the tempi were generally a little brisk for my liking, the Singers achieved a high quality of performance both in the lyrical sections, like the fourth movement (Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen), right through to the forceful fugue of the sixth (Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt).  After the mammoth sixth movement the biggest choral challenge is to maintain the quality through the seventh, which the Singers did admirably.  The soloists, Sarah Stroh (soprano) and Paul Sheehan (baritone), both gave faultless performances and the testing four-hand piano accompaniment was excellently played by Caroline Finlay and Tim Smith.

The Valentine Singers next perform a summer concert on 12 July – it would be well worth putting the date in your diary.

John Buckmaster

Brownline

 

SAINT NICOLAS COMES TO EPPING

29 June 2013

Valentine Singers, under the able direction of Christine Gwynn, gave a concert in St John’s Church Epping celebrating the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten.

Britten’s link with Henry Purcell – they shared 22 November as their birthday, but were born 254 years apart – led to the inclusion of three Purcell works in the concert.  Of particular note was the Chacony in G minor, sensitively played by the strings of the excellent Jericho Ensemble.

Britten’s Cantata Misericordium followed.  In line with the centenary theme this work had been written to mark the 100th year of the Red Cross and tells, in Latin, the tale of the Good Samaritan.  Both the Singers and the full Ensemble gave a convincing performance and the soloists, Greg Tassel (tenor) and Tom Kennedy (baritone) were excellent in their roles as the Good Samaritan and the Traveller.

In the second half of the concert Britten’s Saint Nicolas was staged in a very enterprising way. With Greg Tassel (Nicolas) in the pulpit, a fine semi-chorus of Writtle Singers behind the main choir, and ‘pickled boys’ processing up the centre aisle, the audience were gripped by the drama and music from beginning to end.

 A great evening of music-making was rewarded with generous applause, and was a fitting conclusion to I Love Epping Day.

John Buckmaster

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Judas Maccabaeus

This review was submitted to The Ilford Recorder but did not make the issue for W/E 10.04.11

As with most works by Handel, his oratorio Judas Maccabaeus oozes quality. The performance by Valentine Singers in the comfortable surroundings of St Gabriel's Church, Aldersbrook matched that quality from beginning to end.

Handel sets the scene with an overture and then continues to tell the audience the story of the second century B.C. Maccabean revolt through a series of recitatives, airs and choruses. Of the five fine soloists Jane Streeton and Paul Sheehan stood out with their assured delivery and unfailing quality.

The Jericho Ensemble was also excellent throughout.Wonderfully crisp and responsive, they laid a sure foundation for the soloists and chorus.

Valentine Singers is a fine choir - from their sensitive opening chorus to the joyous final Hallelujah, Amen (sung from memory) they displayed all that is good about choral singing, and their commitment and professionalism was evident right through this long, taxing oratorio. Conductor Christine Gwynn is not one to shirk a challenge - all credit to her for again bringing a major work to Redbridge, and with such style.

The next Valentine Singers concert - Music from Stage and Screen - takes place on Saturday 2nd July in Barnardos Church, Barkingside - pencil it in your diary!

John Buckmaster

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From Ilford Recorder 16.11.10

Over the moon with singers’ night shift

Valentine Singers were in nocturnal mood at Barnados Church on Saturday with a programme of music and words focused around the theme of night.
Nocturne included a cappella and accompanied vocal music, piano solos, and readings by members of the choir.

The varied items explored aspects of the night – its atmosphere, sounds and colours – as well as some of its more illicit activities, as in Kipling’s familiar poem, A Smuggler’s Song, expressively read by Pat Pretious.

Musical director Christine Gwynn drew well-controlled performances out of her singers, particularly with the lush harmonies of part songs by Elgar, Barnby and Sullivan, where tuning and blend were at their best.

A set of six vocal Nocturnes by Mozart showed off the choir’s potential for drama, charting the phases of a passionate love affair with plenty of vocal colour and dynamic range, as well as attention to the Italian diction, which was commendably clear. This was also notable in the choir’s delightful rendering of Vecchi’s Fa una canzona, which opened the concert.

Among the readings, I particularly enjoyed The Night Mail, W. H. Auden’s word-picture of the mail train’s journey with its precious cargo of letters. (Hard to imagine anyone writing a similar poem about The E-Mail!)

Soprano Clare Gailans and pianist Tim Smith gave a spacious and compelling performance of Britten’s Nocturne from On this Island.

And, for me, the Highlight of a pleasing evening’s entertainment was Smith’s eloquent account of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. It transported me from a hard pew and a damp chilly Ilford into the ravishing French moonlight.

MANDY BENTLEY

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From Ilford Recorder 27.7.10

Singers present superb evening of Mozart

ST GABRIEL’S Church, Aldersbrook, was packed for the Valentine Singers' summer concert on Saturday.

Conducted by Christine Gwynn and accompanied by the Jericho Ensemble, the programme consisted entirely of works by Mozart.

The evening began with two short items, Veni Sancte Spiritus and Misericordias Domini, early works not often performed. These provided an indication that we could look forward to an impressive evening's music-making.

Tim Smith emerged from his usual role as chorus accompanist into the limelight as soloist in Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor. He gave a fine performance of this dramatic work, representing well its many moods - sparkling brilliance, gentle lyricism and above all the dark, turbulent emotional depths.

The orchestra produced a full-blooded sound in the tuttis; in the more lightly-scored passages Christine Gwynn established a chamber music-like dialogue between soloist and orchestra.

The orchestral sound was well balanced — not easy to achieve with a relatively small body of strings and a normal complement of woodwind and brass.
The concert ended with the Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, a setting of five psalms and the magnificat.

Here the Singers were joined by a quartet of soloists — Frances Chilvers, Kirstie Matthieson, David Knight and Paul Sheehan — who produced exactly the right sound for Mozart, their voices blending beautifully.

As often happens, the best solos are given to the soprano, and Frances Chilvers rose to the occasion in the beautiful Laudate Dominum.

The Singers performed to their customary high standard and although on this occasion they were somewhat upstaged by the concerto, they made a distinguished contribution to a superb evening of music.

MADELINE SEVIOUR

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From Redbridge Recorder 11.3.10

Delightful songs and sonnets

THE VALENTINE Singers, under their conductor Christine Gwynn, gave a delightful programme of Songs and Sonnets on Saturday at Barnardo's Church, Barkingside.

The packed audience was promised music and poetry "from robust drinking chorus to tender love Iyric, from spoken words to songs without words".

The performance of the opening Tourdion, a popular dance from 1530 by Pierre Attaingnant, set feet tapping with its colourful drone effects, lively rhythms and fine blend of voices.

Central to this half of the programme were two sets of pieces by Mendelssohn.

Five of his Chorlieder were sung, with the men of the choir in particular sounding full, rich and exciting.

It was unusual and interesting to have the translations of the poetry involved spoken before the actual performances.

Tim Smith, the choir's expert accompanist, played several of the songs without words with his customary technical brilliance and fine musicianship.

The second half of the evening opened with a splendid and novel arrangement of Schubert's To Sylvia, followed by a most enjoyable Sweet Tea by Charles Beale.

We were then treated to Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare, a series of pieces for choir, jazz piano and bass, composed by the legendary blind jazz pianist, George Shearing.

This mix of witty and tender music, with its fresh and youthful sound, is a homage to two remarkable Englishmen, and it became very evident just how much the Valentine Singers enjoyed these part songs.

Bass player Paul Bartels joined pianist Tim Smith.

During the evening, there were many contributions from within the choir providing narration and readings, although the acoustics made difficulty for some members of the audience to hear clearly.

Tim Smith performed the famous Listz Liebestraum early on in the programme, and later, two of the Gershwin song transcriptions for piano were superbly played.

Christine Gwynn expertly guided this excellent choir throughout.

- MICHAEL CROMBIE

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ILFORD RECORDER 17th December 2009

Seasonal songs from talented choir - Bethlehem Down 13th December 2009

NINETY minutes of seasonal music followed by sherry and mince pies — what better start to the festive celebrations could you ask for?

Once more the Valentine Singers have shown what a good, disciplined and talented choir they are.

At St Paul's Church, Goodmayes, on Saturday, the singers processed in to Here we come a-wassailing and followed this with a miscellany of advent and seasonal music and readings, both traditional and contemporary.  Conductor: Christine Gwynn introduced the items and the audience was treated to several favourites including The Angel Gabriel, In the Bleak Midwinter and Mathias's rousing Sir Cristemas. As usual the choir's intonation and use of dynamics were excellent, as was their ensemble (with only a few blemishes in Warlock's Bethlehem Down).

The inclusion of a small ensemble from The Spectrum Singers was a bonus. These six young singers, directed by Anne Fradd and accompanied by Christine Gwynn, performed several traditional songs from around the world. From A Polish Lullaby to Fum Fum Fum, an upbeat traditional Spanish song, they were a delight.
There were several accompanists -Tim Smith (piano), David Sheppard (organ), Jonathan Sheppard (trumpet) and Peter Sheppard (timpani).

I note from the programme that Jonathan and Peter also sang in the Spectrum Singers, along with Lydia Sheppard — it seemed very appropriate time of year to have so many Sheppards!

The next Valentine Singers concert is on March 6 at the Barnardo's Church — put the date in your diary.

JOHN BUCKMASTER

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VALENTINE SINGERS

Thames Link 14th November 2009

The Valentine Singers, conducted by Christine Gwynne, presented an imaginative programme inspired by the River Thames at their concert at St. John’s Church, Buckhurst Hill, on Saturday.

‘Thames Link’ included works by composers connected with towns along the river from Oxford (Parry), through Reading (Finzi) to London, passing through Windsor Forest with Vaughan Williams, and Westminster with one of Handel’s Coronation Anthems.  In between the choral items were readings – two extracts from Jerome K. Jerome’s humorous classic Three Men in a Boat, and a piece by Virginia Woolf.

It was ambitious to begin with unaccompanied works, but the Singers rose to the challenge.  They were joined by Tim Smith at the piano for Vaughan Williams’ In Windsor Forest, producing some lively singing and a fine solo from Clare Gailans. 

Handel’s My Heart is Inditing was accompanied by organ, oboe, trumpet and timpani.  This created a problem.  The organ is in the right transept;  instrumentalists were in the left transept and there was a time-lag between the two.  The choir, in the middle, sounded understandably a little unsure until everyone became accustomed to the acoustic.  The moral of the story?  Watch and follow the conductor, which is easier said than done!

Bob Chilcott’s Songs and Cries of London Town, brought the evening to a rousing conclusion and showed the Singers at their best.  Jazzy rhythms in the outer movements were performed with panache, helped by a superb contribution from percussion and piano duet, and there was some lyrical singing in the slower movements.  A most enjoyable performance.

Madeline Seviour

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ILFORD RECORDER 9th July 2009

Valentine’s stars earn their stripes on July 4

THE Valentine Singers presented a programme of American music at St Gabriel's Church in Aldersbrook on Saturday to celebrate Independence Day.

There were pieces by Arlen, Barber, Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, Lauridsen and Seeger as well as folk, traditional items and spirituals.

From the very opening Sondheim number, ComedyTonight, it was evident the choir enjoyed singing this music, and there was a good blend of warm sound. This was followed by arrangements of items from Bernstein's On the Town, with some particularly effective singing.

Taking on a more serious style, unaccompanied compositions from Barber and Lauridsen gave the Singers music that challenged.  Lauridsen's O nata lux, one of a series of a cappella motets featured regularly by choral groups, had some quite beautiful moments to savour, and the lovely SATB arrangement of Barber's Sure On This Shining Night was most enjoyable.

It is always a delight to hear their accompanist, Tim Smith, perform, and the Three Preludes by Gershwin were splendid. The conductor, Christine Gwynn, joined Tim at the piano with arrangements of Bernstein's Overture to Candide and Copland's ballet music from Appalachian Spring. The performances were sparkling.

The audience were encouraged to take part, and there was much fun
in singing about Mrs O'Leary's lantern as a four part canon, helped by the choir. There was also some gentle humming as the choir performed a delightful and simple version of Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone.

A long list of Gershwin favourites in clever arrangements were enjoyed, and Arlen's favourite, Over the Rainbow, closed the programme, once again showing this choir's fine sound.

MICHAEL CROMBIE

Ilford Recorder 2nd April 2009

Great reminder of wonders of the Earth


IN A world threatened by global warming, it's refreshing to be reminded of the wonders of the Earth — which is exactly what the Valentine Singers and the Aurelian Symphony Orchestra did at All Saints Woodford Wells on Saturday, with their fine performance of The Creation.
Haydn's oratorio for chorus (mostly angelic), orchestra and soloists tells the story of creation with some of the most expressive and colourful sound painting in the history of western music.
It opens with an awe-inspiring evocation of chaos which mysteriously crystallizes into the moment of creation, rendered in a fortissimo chord for full orchestra and voices — the first musical Big Bang!
Conductor Christine Gwynne's forces were a little tentative at the opening, but that chord seemed to set them on their way, and the rest of the performance was full of confidence and authority.
Recitatives, solos and choruses celebrated the wonders of each day, bringing forth foaming seas, verdant fields and flowers, and every kind of living creature.
The instrumental writing is brilliantly inventive — far more so than the banal imagery which irritatingly appeared throughout the performance on two computer screens — and there was some excellent playing in all sections.
The creation of the heavens was particularly effective, with tenor Bene't Coldstream tenderly evoking the passage of the silver moon before the chorus broke radiantly into The Heavens are telling the glory of the Lord.
The summit of God's creations are Adam and Eve, and Haydn leaves the pair in Paradise with an exquisitely-crafted duet, sung with warmth and dignity by soprano Lianne-Marie Skriniar and baritone Paul Sheehan. .
The entire company concluded the work in celebratory mood with The Lord is great. So was this concert.
— MANDY BENTLEY

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Ilford Recorder 6th November 2008

Singers create their own fireworks.

The Valentine Singers presented a very varied programme of choral and vocal music at St Gabriel's Church, Aldersbrook, on Saturday.
This is the third year in a row that I have heard this fine choir do battle with the sound of fireworks, but despite the odd noisy interruption, the choir demonstrated its excellent musicianship throughout.
The evening began with Bruckner's setting of Ave Maria, followed by Saint-Saëns’ beautiful Ave Verum. At once, the skill of conductor, Christine Gwynn, became evident as the choir performed with a real understanding of interpretation and dynamic contrasts.
The contralto soloist, Morag Boyle, often sings with this choir and is always a joy to hear. She sang music by Saint-Saëns, Fauré and Ravel, coping with the wide range of styles involved with great expertise.
Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine was written when the composer was 19, winning him an important prize. The piece has always attracted both choirs and audiences, and the Valentine Singers performed it with obvious enjoyment.
The first half closed with Stanford's Three Latin Motets. During the second of these, Coelos ascendit hodie, I felt that the double choir demands proved a little too much, the one moment of the evening which was not quite up to their usual standards.
The second part of the programme was a complete performance of Durufle's Requiem, sung with fluency and accuracy.
There was an opportunity to hear Morag Boyle again in the Pie Jesu movement, and the organ accompaniment provided by David Sheppard was both very supportive and expertly played.

MICHAEL CROMBIE

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Ilford Recorder 20th March 2008

The Valentine Singers celebrated their 10th anniversary in flamboyant style on Saturday night with works by three great 20th century English composers.

The concert opened with Vaughan Williams’ modest, O Clap your hands, followed by Elgar’s The Music Makers, an altogether more substantial work in both length and musical complexity. Conductor Christine Gwynn guided the fifty five players from the Aurelian Ensemble through a finely wrought opening to the work and when the choir sang its opening phrase, ‘We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams’, I believed them. Contralto soloist Morag Boyle, whose warmth of tone and musical communication of the text displayed musicianship of a very high order, sadly was occasionally overwhelmed by the instruments. Even the choir had its work cut out trying to make their words heard in the loud passages with orchestra. However, they had been well trained and understood the emotional range of this piece well, saving their finest pianissimo singing for the moving close of the work.

Walton’s choral masterpiece Belshazzar’s Feast is an excellent vehicle to show off what a choir and orchestra can do. With its foot-tapping rhythms, exciting percussion writing and the dramatic role for baritone-narrator, the work never fails to make an impact on audiences.  Baritone Paul Sheehan’s performance was thrilling and he had the audience on the edge of their seats as he unfolded the tale of Belshazzar’s grisly end, with several of them on their feet applauding at the end.

JANETTE RUOCCO

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Ilford Recorder 27th December 2007

Seasonal mix adds texture and light VALENTINE SINGERS - CHRISTMAS CONCERT David Sheppard (organ) and Tim Smith (piano), accompanied Valentine Singers in front of a large and enthusiastic audience at Barnardo's Church, Barkingside.  

Conductor Christine Gwynn guided the audience through the evening's programme with anecdotes and an enlightening commentary on the pieces and their origins.

The evening's European theme afforded the choir the opportunity to shine, as in addition to singing in English, they also sang convincingly in Latin, French, Danish, German and Spanish. The carols were interspersed by seasonal readings by members of the choir from The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder.

In the many carols sung unaccompanied, the choir displayed a high level of vocal skill and musical understanding. The vocal tone was full but never forced, the blend and diction excellent, and the poise and delivery disciplined and polished.

At all times, the choir was responsive to the conductor's direction.

Several singers sang solo verses and other sections were taken by small groups –all of which helped to provide textural variety and interest.

One of the musical highlights of the evening was Claire Gailan's performance of Reger's Maria Wiegenlied.

On Saturday January 19, the Valentine Singers have a choral workshop on Elgar's The Music Makers and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, which will feature in their next concert on March 15.

JANETTE RUOCCO

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ILFORD RECORDER
REVIEW 8.11.07

Bringing joy from the darkness
VALENTINE SINGERS - BARNARDO'S CHURCH


THE Valentine Singers ran the gauntlet of skyrockets and bangers on Saturday to offer a concert ofmusical fireworks for choir and organ at Barnardo's Church, Barkingside.

The programme opened with Elgar's Give Unto the Lord, and included Parry’s Best Pair of Sirens, whose rich harmonies suited the full, mature tone of the choir.

But the most exciting music making of the evening came in the two works by the Hungarian composer Kodaly.

Laudes Organi, written in 1966, is a fantasia on a text taken from a 12th century manuscript.

The words are a celebration of music, a gift to composer and performers alike, containing lines such as” with such a melody, sweet as honey, you please your audience"

The work opens with a solo passage for organ, followed by a unison statement from the basses, “listen to the chorus of the pipes", which was quite magical.

There was some fine lyrical singing throughout, and the chorus was always at its best when singing in their middle register, with the alto sound particularly attractive.

Kodaly’s Missa Brevis was written in the darkest days of World War Two, but include, some rapturous and uplifting music.

The choir gave a radiant account of the repeated “hosanna”, and if at times they were challenged by the technical demands of Kodaly's writing, the Agnus Dei was truly affecting, with a haunting solo from alto Audrey Cassidy.

Organist David Sheppard found plenty of textural light and shade in the works, and the overall forces were gracefully controlled by conductor Christine Gwynn.

MANDY BENTLEY

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ILFORD RECORDER 5th April 2007

Passion flowers under Christine’s masterstrokes

Such are the forces required we are rarely treated to a local performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, so it was with great anticipation that I attended the Valentine Singer’s performance at All Saints’ Church Woodford Wells, conducted by Christine Gwynn.

A capacity audience was not disappointed as the singers, accompanied by the Jericho Ensemble, set the tone with the first chorus and proceeded to give an excellent performance.

The choir just got better and better, treating the audience to a moving second half ending with an emotional In Tears of Grief.

Singers took the smaller parts of Peter, Pilate and Judas, acquitting themselves well with authoritative and nerveless performances.

A superb group of soloists was assembled – Bene’t Coldstream was a fine Evangelist and basses Edmund Connolly (Jesus) and Paul Sheehan were excellent.  Sheehan’s rendition of Make Thee Clean, My Heart, From Sin, towards the end of the Passion was masterful.

The Jericho Ensemble was excellent and played with great sensitivity.

Oboists Silvia Harper and Maxwell Spiers added a touch of class to the evening.

Holding all the strands together (two orchestras, double choir, continuo and six soloists) is no mean feat, but Christine Gwynn was equal to the task.

She should be proud of her achievements.

The large audience had become totally involved in this performance, and the long, loud applause was proof.

John Buckmaster

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ILFORD RECORDER
REVIEW 28.12.06

‘FESTIVE JOY FOR ALL TO HEAR’

VALENTINE SINGERS – BARNARDO’S CHURCH, BARKINGSIDE

Conducted by Christine Gwynn, this festive performance included something for everyone – choral works, readings, instrumental items, a youth choir and plenty of audience participation.

The Spectrum Singers youth choir performed five pieces and showed great confidence.

Tim Smith, piano and David Sheppard, organ, provided accompaniment where it was needed, and Smith also played two fine solo pieces.

The Singers performed several well known carols and showed great variation in style from the robust Torches to the sensitive Shepherd’s Farewell.

This was an excellent and entertaining evening.

JOHN BUCKMASTER

ILFORD RECORDER REVIEW – 9th November 2006
AUTUMN CONCERT 2006

‘EXCELLENT SINGERS WIN BATTLE AGAINST FIRWORKS NOISE’


The valentine Singers have in recent years, won a reputation for giving high quality performances, and their programme on Saturday at Barnardo’s Church, Barkingside, gave the packed audience a display of their excellence, along with a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.

The theme for the evening was ‘Time’ and all manner of styles and periods of music were represented, along with some appropriate readings and two delightful piano solos. There were madrigals by Morley and Wilbye contrasting with the music of Samuel Barber and a new work, commissioned for a massed choral event at London’s Coliseum this summer, called ‘genesis’ by Richard Taylor. This modern piece was sung unaccompanied.

Here is the test of any good choral group – the ability to stay in pitch and in tune, and although there were ‘moments’, much was extremely good.

It says much of the highly skilled direction which their conductor, Christine Gwynn gives to this group, to note how well they coped with the many difficulties in this brave and ambitious undertaking.

Don Fletcher and Frances Lloyd were soloists in a lovely arrangement of ‘As Time Goes By’ and Clare Gailans sang beautifully in a clever version of ‘Summertime’.

I particularly enjoyed ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’, but perhaps that is because I love a choir to sing without music, as here.

It’s quite amazing how the sound improves when you can see all the faces!

It was, perhaps, unfortunate to hear this concert with the background of noisy fireworks, but this did not take away from the choir’s wide variety of dynamics and colour in songs such as Sullivan’s ‘The Long day Closes’ Gardiner’s ‘Evening Hymn’.

It would be remiss of me not to comment on the quite wonderful piano accompaniment (and the solos mentioned earlier) provided by Tim Smith.

- MICHAEL CROMBIE

ILFORD RECORDER
REVIEW 22nd June 06


A FINE EVENING ON THE WATER

Afloat on a fine summer’s evening in Barkingside – what more could anyone want?

The valentine Singers’ cleverly themed programme at Barnardo’s Church, Tanners Lane, on Saturday – with nine young Spectrum Singers adding youthful oars – had us boating, swimming with whales, dancing on river banks, looking out over a Suffolk beach and the mighty Shenandoah, being alone on an island and just plain travelling on the water.

Christine Gwynn directed with great skill and her introductions were enhanced by well-projected readings from Martyn Richards.

The highlight was Constant Lambert’s Rio Grande, a jazzy Latin American setting of Sacheverell Sitwell’s poem.

Not only was there exuberant choral singing, but virtuoso piano playing from Tim Smith, ably assisted by Lilian Bailey on a second ‘orchestral’ piano.


Tim also contributed a beautifully judged solo, The Island Spell (John Ireland).

The choir demonstrated its musicianship particularly in an exquisite Sweet and Low (Barnby) and, more stirringly, in Daryl Runswick’s splendid arrangement of Shenandoah, which featured an assured solo quartet as well as chorus.

They were at home in Mendelssohn, Elgar, Mozart, Stanford, Barber and even a short scene from Britten’s Peter Grimes.

The Valentine Singers have a range other choirs might envy.

Only slightly less successful were two spirituals from Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, fine pieces but demanding in their lyrical but athletic lines.

The Spectrum Singers sang the solo in Stanford’s The Blue Bird very effectively. The Angels and Butterflies Waltz was effective and Sara Atalar sang sweetly in Safe By My Side (with humming accompaniment)

A fine evening on the water.

Alan Pegrum

Valentines sing a show of passion

The Valentine Singers performed a concert of Italian Romantic choral music at Barnardo's Church to a large audience.

Conductor Christine Gwynn, drew some fine musical interpretation from the assembled forces.

The performance was distinguished by a full-blooded Italianate range of dynamic contrasts from full-on heady forte to hushed, but intense piano singing.

This, combined with the conductor's skilful management of the crescendo passages, meant that the drama of the music was always apparent.

The concert opened with a five- part a cappella work Verdi’s Pater Noster, which sets words from Dante's Divine Comedy.

The opening phrases from the sopranos and altos were warm and mellow, and well matched by the tenors' first entry, while the basses were most impressive in the quality of their tone in the low entry just before the closing “amen” passage.

The choir's understanding of the music, and its text, came across with a refreshing honesty.

The rest of the concert was devoted to Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, a work that at 80 minutes' running time and so infused with operatic writing, cannot be considered to be either small or solemn.

It is a work of joy and exuberance and the performance had these elements in appropriate balance with occasions when something more spiritual and serene was required.

The solo quartet of Elizabeth Menezes (soprano), Morag Boyle (alto), David Menezes(tenor) and Paul Charrier (bass) was well matched vocally and in terms of temperament, with Morag's contribution to the final movement Agnus Dei both radiant and monumental.

David Sheppard (harmonium) and Tim Smith (piano) accompanied the work. It falls to the pianist to provide a range of orchestral colour in each different movement, and Smith's ability to do this was a wonder to behold.
JANETTE RUOCCO

Valentine Singers
Singing it with heart

Ilford Recorder Arts Page, Thursday 26th January 2006

By Amanda Bentley

If you love singing, you can be sure of a heartfelt welcome from the Valentine Singers. The 70-strong choral group opens its doors to members and the public alike on Saturday 28th January, when conductor Christine Gwynn directs a day-long workshop at Barnardo’s Church, Barkingside, on Beethoven’s mighty Missa Solemnis.

“It’s helpful for members to have an intensive day of preparation for our performance later in the season (March 25th),” says Gwynn. “But a workshop like this is also an opportunity to give people a taste of what it’s like to be involved, to try it out.” The day begins at 11am, and concludes at 4pm with an informal performance of selected choruses. The fee of £15 (concessions available) includes music and hot drinks.

An open-door policy is characteristic of the Valentine Singers. Prospective members are auditioned to establish their vocal range and abilities, but they are not expected to sight-read or even, initially, to read music at all. Gwynn welcomes singers of any age and background. CDs and rehearsal tapes are available to help singers learn their parts. There are warm-ups and exercises before every rehearsal, and vocal development is part of Gwynn’s vision for the group. “We’re fortunate enough to have some experienced singers,” she says, “but we’re a community choir. We try and encourage people of all abilities to increase their musical skills.”

A united musical purpose may be what makes the Valentine Singers such a welcoming group. “Most choral societies are friendly,” says Gwynn, “but this one seems particularly convivial. Perhaps meeting on a Friday night helps! They’re very serious about what they’re doing but they have fun as well.”

The Valentine Singers – clearly a society with a heart – are just the group to tackle the Missa Solemnis. Beethoven himself commended the work to his publisher with the words: “From the heart – may it go to the heart”. So, if you’d like to know what all the singing is about, the Valentine Singers’ workshop is your chance to find out.

For more information on the Valentine Singers and the Missa Solemnis Workshop, visit www.valentinesingers.org or call 020 8220 0817.

16.11.00 from Ilford Recorder Thursday 6 November 2003


The Ilford-based singers raised £2,800 at their latest concert in aid of the Margaret Centre palliative care unit at Whipps Cross Hospital.
The free concert took place at Barnardo's Church, Tanner's Lane, Barkingside, and was one of more than 500 simultaneous performances throughout the world in support of the Hospice Movement.
The £2,800 total was raised through a retirement collection, the sale of commemorative programmes, participants paying to sing, sponsorship from Redbridge businesses, and individual donations.
Under the supervision of musical director Christine Gwynn and accompanist Tim Smith the singers performed their Autumn Serenade. This followed a three-hour choral workshop of choruses from Brahms' Requiem and other music for voices and piano.
The group's next concert will be performed at St Paul's Church, Atholl Road, Goodmayes, on Saturday December 13 at 7.3Opm.
For further details of this concert or other Valentine Singers activities, visit the choir's website at www.valentinesingers.org
or call 0208505 1838.

16.11.00 from Ilford Recorder (Kathryn Ryan)
re concert on Saturday 11 November 2000

The Valentine Singers combined with the Aurelian Ensemble to bring an evening of Mozart to Barnardo's Church, Barkingside last Saturday. Conducted by Christine Gwynn, this turned out to be a memorable musical occasion.
Both halves of the programme found choir and orchestra in fine form, with expressive performances of Kyrie in D minor and Ave Verum Corpus. The fine singing continued with soprano soloist Jenny Haxell performing the solo motet Exsultate Jubilate. Throughout the interpretation was very good, superimposed on well-controlled tone. The first half closed with an excellent performance of the Oboe Concerto by Sylvia Harper, very ably accompanied by the Aurelian Ensemble.
Appropriately for Armistice Day, the second half was a performance of the Requiem. This piece certainly portrays the agony of war in some of its movements and the dramatic sections were excitingly performed, which contrasted well with the softer, lyrical singing of the other sections.


A composer writes


Richard Blackford wrote the following after hearing the Valentine singers perform his composition Mirror of Perfection on 16th March 2002.

Thank you for your wonderful performance of Mirror of Perfection. It was a passionate and totally committed rendition, with excellent choral singing and some stunning orchestral playing (especially from the horn trio). I thought that Claire and Matthew sung the solos beautifully and please give them and the Valentine Singers my heartfelt congratulations. It was a most enjoyable concert and I do appreciate your kindness and the warm welcome you and your colleagues gave me.

Comments from players

I really enjoyed it and am so impressed by the choir .......lovely, warm atmosphere,

Comments from soloists

I really did enjoy working with you all and don't think I have ever come across such a lovely group.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Everybody was great to work with.


I thought the choir were very good, and it was a pleasure to be able to sit and listen from a different position for a change.

Comments from audience members


I cannot remember if I wrote to you and waxed eulogistically about your Mozart Requiem. The evening was great, but the Requiem came over particularly well. ....congratulations on a splendid evening's music making.


Brilliant concert last night, the choir is very impressive...


Congratulations to you on the wonderful job you do with the Valentine Singers, your concerts are an absolute delight.


Great concert...went home with a huge buzz.

Thank you for a wonderful evening of beautiful music, superbly performed. I found the whole event uplifting and inspiring. Every one of our friends who were there used words like 'superb', 'brilliant', 'marvellous' when we spoke about the concert. One lady said that she had never listened to this type of music before and had certainly never attended a concert, but she found it so beautiful that she became 'lost in the music'.

Comments from choir members

Thank you for the marvellous concert, it was a real pleasure to be part of it. My first concert with an orchestra - wow.


I thoroughly enjoyed myself as usual. I loved the whole concert.....


First of all, I'd like to say how wonderful the Mozart Evening was. I enjoyed being a part of the whole immensely.

 

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