LIVE REVIEW: Todmorden Choral Society Autumn Concert 2016, St Mary’s Church Todmorden, 15th October

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This concert was devoted to church music. Organist Gary Hulme began with J S Bach’s Toccata in C (BWV 564). This began with a rippling effect on the high notes. The low notes intervened , then began a melody, which was elaborated and repeated higher up. The effect was celebratory. He then played a prelude (BWV 599) to the main piece of the evening, Bach’s motet ‘Jesu, meine Freude’ (BWV 227). In these pieces he demonstrated his skill at intricate playing and the power of the instrument.

The choir then sang the motet itself, in German. The words are dramatic and powerful, about the dangers of this world and the next, and the singer’s faith in Jesus who can overcome them. The choir expressed beautifully the passion of the work, which begins with a simple melody, becomes more elaborate, and returns to the original strong melody for the affirmative last verse.

The second half opened with two pieces by Anton Bruckner, ‘Pange lingua’ with beautiful harmonies, and ‘Ave Maria’ with its contrasting vocal parts. It continued with Mozart’s solemn “Ave verum corpus”. Bruckner’s “Os Justi” had subtle harmonies and a peaceful feel. The choir powerfully expressed the varying moods of the pieces.

Then Gary Hulme played another organ solo, this time a more simple one – Josef Rheinberger’s melodious and rhythmic ‘Cantilena’ from his Organ Sonata No 11.
The choir featured in the last two pieces, both by Bruckner: ‘Locus iste’ which contrasts low and high voices, which sometimes alternate or echo, and ‘Christus factus est’ with a beautiful melody and gentle harmonies. The audience demanded an encore, which was a reprise of ‘Locus iste’.