70th Anniversary Concert - review by Alix Cathcart, May 2015
very enjoyable evening of sacred choral music was hosted by The
West Somerset Singers on Saturday 16 May at Taunton Baptist Church,
to celebrate their 70th anniversary year. Mayor of Taunton Deane,
Dave Durdan and his wife Renee were in the audience.
The highlight of the
occasion was the first performance of a setting of Psalm 150, written
especially for the choir for this occasion by their Musical Director,
David Knight. The piece, both lyrical and contemporary, has the
qualities of a celebratory fanfare. The choir must feel honoured
to have such a lovely piece composed for them. The first half of
the programme also contained pieces by Holst and Handel.
The substantive performance
of the evening was Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonnelle. The
work contains substantial soloist parts, performed by Soprano Lisa
Tustian, Contralto Rebecca Smith, Tenor Chris Davies and Baritone
Stephen Page, all a pleasure to listen to. The work has an operatic
character, contains beautiful harmonies and calls for shades of
colour in the singing, particularly sombre tones towards the end.
For the choir, this was an ambitious piece, which they relished,
strongly supported by Organist John Bodiley and Pianist Rachel Robinson.
At the reception afterwards,
John Evemy paid tribute to past Directors, accompanists, soloists
and past members of the choir, some of whom were present. The choir
would like to welcome new voices, as it embarks on the next decade.
More information can be found at: www.westsomersetsingers.org.uk.
for Good Friday: review by M Summers, March 2013
On Good Friday
David Knight conducted his first concert as Musical Director of
the West Somerset Singers, in performances of Stainer's Crucifixion
and Vivaldi's Gloria at Taunton Baptist Church. Chris Manners accompanied
very sensitively on the organ and disguised some problems in the
organ's tuning and action extremely well.
Dean Ward, took some liberties with Stainer's score but the effect
was musical and his diction good. David Fouracre, Bass soloist,
provided excellent tone and diction throughout starting with the
introduction to the choir's first chorus, “The Agony”.
Here the choir showed excellent response to the conductor with precise
entries, clean ends to phrases and good dynamics. These qualities
were a hallmark of the entire performance. However, although the
changes in tempi in “Fling wide the gates” were well
observed, the choir seemed a bit overawed by the organ. The unaccompanied
chorus “God so loved the world” was a model of control.
Choir members John Gillard and Bob Hart provided well-toned clear
reliable lines for the short bass solos required.
received a first class lively performance, with the choir again
attentive from the very first entry. Soloists Gillian Wells, Soprano
and Olivia Gomes, Alto both in their final year at the Royal Welsh
College of Music & Drama, sang beautifully, expressively and
accurately. The choir remained alert even through the tricky fugal
sections, although the men understandably began to tire in the final
section. Nevertheless, for some fine exhilarating music this was
a most commendable performance, clearly enjoyed by the audience
and a promise of great things ahead from the choir under their new
of Spring: review by A Edwards, March 2012
Church welcomed The West Somerset Singers on Saturday 31st March
for a programme selected to celebrate British music in this Jubilee
year. Under the direction of Nick Thomas, the choir opened the concert
with lively extracts from Edward German’s comic opera Merrie
England. The audience were introduced to the first of the evening’s
talented young soloists, Bridgwater College student Danielle Stacey-Evans,
who gave two enchanting soprano solos; She Had A Letter and O Peaceful
England. Huw Davies, a lower sixth form student at Richard Huish
College then delivered a first class performance of Noel Coward’s
As the programme
continued with a selection of British folk songs the balance wasn’t
always perfect, due in part to the small number of tenors and basses,
but from the tranquil Elizabethan serenade Where the Gentle Avon
Flows to the rousing Loch Lomond the choir delivered a solid performance
paying attention to diction and dynamics.
The second half opened with a soaring soprano solo from Danielle,
Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, accompanied by the choir. Fifteen-year-old
Kingsmead School student Joe Robinson then engaged the audience
with a confident and thoroughly entertaining rendition of Top Hat,
White Tie and Tails by Irvine Berlin.
For the finale, the audience were treated to a lesser known cantata
Captain Noah and His Floating Ark by composer Joseph Horovitz to
a witty libretto by Michael Flanders. Here the choir were able to
demonstrate flexibility in a variety of musical styles from jazz
to samba! Huw and Joe were outstanding once more in their roles
as Narrator & The Lord and Captain Noah. The choir were skilfully
accompanied throughout by pianist Rachel Robinson. Plenty of applause
and smiles all round as the evening drew to a close.
Cornucopia: review by S Derham, December 2011
The West Somerset
Singers, under the direction of Nick Thomas, once again gave a wonderful
concert at Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton on Saturday 3rd
December. The choir began with Bach’s Wake ye Maids which
they sang in German - good four part singing and a strong performance.
Accomplished organist Alex Davies then played the Prelude and Fugue
in B flat by Bach. The choir’s rendition of Missa Brevis Santi
Joannis de Deo (Little organ mass) by Haydn was a moving piece with
good tenors. Guest Soprano Katharine Walker sang the solo Benidictus
with great feeling. Amie Ward, a pupil from Bishop Fox’s School,
sang a most beautiful solo The Virgin’s Slumber Song by Max
Reger with clear diction and a worthy performance. Bringing the
first half to a close we heard Brahms’ How Lovely are Thy
Dwellings and Bach’s Zion Hears the Watchman Calling.
The second half
began with Navidad Nuestra, a folk drama of the Nativity based on
the rhythms and traditions of Hispanic America. Alex played the
harpsicord with Nick on the accordion in this fun, light-hearted
piece. Pat Phillips, a member of the choir with a lovely soprano
voice, sang the solo. John Rutter’s The Donkey Carol and David
Willcocks’ arrangement of What Child Is This followed, the
latter sung to the tune of Greensleeves. Alex’s second solo
piece on the organ Lefébure-Wély’s Andante was
superb and gave you tingles! Bach`s “Gloria” Sing All
Our Voices, was one my personal favourites from the evening - all
parts sang with strength and emotion. The audience joined in with
some popular carols and a thoroughly enjoyable evening sadly came
to an end. For those of you not there I do encourage you to support
this fantastic local choir.
Concert: review by A R Edwards, April 2011
refurbished Taunton Baptist Church provided a comfortable and welcoming
setting for the West Somerset Singers’ Springtime Concert
on Saturday 16th April. Conducted by their Musical Director Nick
Thomas, the choir began the evening’s programme with a solid
performance of Schubert’s Mass in G. Through clear diction
and range of dynamics the choir succeeded in capturing the contrasting
mood of the piece from the lively, vigorous Gloria to the peaceful
Agnus Dei. Guest Soprano Hilary Gooch and Tenor Chris Ball gave
a well-balanced duet in the Benedictus supported by the choir’s
Accomplished organist Alex Davies treated the audience to two solos;
Karg-Elert’s Nun Danket and the uplifting Andante Choeur de
voix humaines from French classical composer Lefébure-Wély.
Hilary Gooch then demonstrated her remarkable vocal range in a solo
performance of the technically challenging Laudamus Te by Mozart.
In the second half, the choir were joined by highly talented young
musicians from Wellington School and King’s College Taunton.
Cellist Tamar Dewbery, Flautist Jenny Kilbey and Oboist Bethany
Kilbey along with King’s Music Director Karen Paul on timpani
and pianist Rachel Robinson on keyboard provided a faultless orchestral
accompaniment to Rutter’s Requiem. There were some hesitant
entries from the choir and at times uncertainty between the parts
but this did not spoil the overall delivery of the seven movements
of this atmospheric work. The intensity of the dark, opening section
of Out of the Deep contrasted superbly with the uplifting Sanctus.
Hilary delighted the audience once again with her beautiful soaring
soprano solos in Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna.
Finally, a serene performance of Fauré’s Cantique de
Jean Racine from the choir brought a thoroughly enjoyable evening
to a close.
of Seasonal Music: review by M Bray, December 2010
The West Somerset
Singers promised us a Feast of Seasonal Music at their recent concert
and they certainly didn’t disappoint. There was a solid opening
with two chorales from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio sung with
great attack following an introductory recitative given by tenor
There followed a confident and dramatic performance of Saint-Saens
Christmas Oratorio with clear diction throughout and a variety of
dynamics, enthusiastically conducted by their musical director Nick
Thomas and accompanied with great sensitivity on the organ by Alex
Davies and Rachel Robinson on keyboard. The opening chorus Glory
be unto God was followed by a solo from the soprano Hilary Gooch
which demonstrated her vocal range and clarity of tone. This led
into a chorus In my heart I believe which was at times ethereal
with the soloist soaring above the chorus. There followed a lyrical
and well balanced duet by Hilary and Chris Davies before the choir
burst into Wherefore do the Heathen Clamor?
The second half began with a lively rendition of Rutter’s
arrangement of I saw three ships, three movements from Rutter’s
Suite Antique for flute and piano given by Nick Thomas on the flute
and the traditional carol Good King Wenceslas.
Jonathan Lee came into his own when he joined the choir in the Huron
Carol followed by a beautiful performance of O Holy Night. The soloists
and choir joined together for In the Bleak Mid Winter which has
been voted the nation’s favourite carol.
The choir sang two more carols including The Taunton Carol until
the evening came to a very peaceful close with the audience joining
in Silent Night sensitively accompanied on the guitar.
celebrations: review by Nick Taylor, December 2009
At the Seasonal
Celebration of Great Composers at St George’s, Wilton, Nick
Thomas directed the West Somerset Singers in a rich and varied programme
to commemorate Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Purcell.
They began the ambitious Charpentier Messe de Minuit with joyful
There was good balance between the parts, an accomplished duet and
trio from Pat Phillips, Gill Thompson, and Anne-Marie Twort, but
some uncertainty later in the piece in some vocal parts.
Nick played exquisitely on the descant recorder, accompanied by
his wife Elaine, for two pieces by Purcell including variations
on ‘Air’ and the rousing ‘Lilliburlero’,
and later they treated us to the beautiful soaring flute melodies
of Blake’s ‘The Snowman Suite’.
Haydn’s optimistic ‘Te Deum’ was tackled with
gusto, with an energetic fugue ‘In Te Dominum speravi’,
and a triumphant ending. Chris Ball’s dulcet tenor tones added
to the beauty of Mendelssohn’s ‘Ave Maria’, the
choir producing exciting climaxes. Accompanied by the choir, Chris
Doyle gave a masterly rendition of the baritone solo in Cornelius’
‘The Three Kings’.
Handel was celebrated with ‘For unto us a child is born’:
it perhaps lacked some joy and confidence to match its sentiments,
and a few members could usefully watch the conductor more. But here,
as in other pieces, Alex Davies was a joy to hear on the organ –
producing contrasts we didn’t know that particular instrument
was capable of!
Two gentle lullabies by Arnold Cooke and Jan Sanborn, the latter
accompanied by the choir’s regular pianist Rachel Robinson,
brought us well and truly into the Christmas season, as we all joined
in with ‘God rest you’ and ‘O come, all ye faithful’,
followed by wine and refreshments. This was an evening’s entertainment
not to be missed, and their next concert is at the same venue on
8th. May 2010.
Somerset Singers Spring Concert: review by Gill Brown, May 2009
the West Somerset Singers presented their Spring concert in the
intimate setting of St George’s Church, Wilton.
A contrasting programme had been chosen by conductor Nick Thomas,
starting with the Mozart Requiem, followed by John Rutter’s
Magnificat. For the Requiem, the choir was joined by four perfectly
matched soloists; Janet Distin (Soprano), Peter Oakley (Countertenor),
Simon Hurrell (Tenor) and Michael Collins (Bass). Their performances
all greatly enhanced the work with their richness of tone and attention
to dynamics but special mention must be made of Peter Oakley who,
at the age of eighteen, sang with great composure and assurance.
The Mozart opened with confidence supported by Alex Davies’
skilful organ accompaniment. In the Kyrie the soprano line was clear
and the voices were well balanced. Nick Thomas kept it moving forward
and the intricacy of the underlying parts was well controlled. The
choir produced a range of moods in the Lacrimosa which began with
a beautiful sighing entry, leading to the exciting climax. There
was good attack and precision in the Domine Jesu and effective contrast
of dynamics, while in the Benedictus the soloists sang effortlessly,
their voices rising and falling with great musicality.
In the second half, the audience fell under the spell of John Rutter’s
uplifting Magnificat. From the opening bars to the last strains,
the listeners were kept on the edge of their seats as the choir
and Janet Distin gave a wonderful performance. Rutter’s works
never fail to entertain and the Magnificat is no exception. The
syncopations and strong, energetic melodies produced a sense of
exhilaration and the choir’s joyous singing enhanced this
Generally the voices were well balanced and there were opportunities
in the opening section to hear the rich, sustained singing of the
altos, while the sopranos soared above. Within the traditional words
of the Magnificat, Rutter has interwoven three other elements, the
most memorable a 15th century English poem, ‘Of a Rose’.
Here there was a melodic male voice line and clarity of diction
from all parts. The mounting tension in the Quia fecit mihi magna,
with discords held well until the climax, contrasted beautifully
with the gentle prayer ‘Sancta Maria’. After a shaky
start, the Fecit potentiam gained confidence and the choir coped
well with the very difficult rhythms. The lilting melody of Esurientes
was sung with feeling and in the solo sections of the Et misericordia
and the Gloria, Janet Distin sang with ease, filling the church
with glorious, ringing tones.
Throughout, Alex Davies gave a spirited accompaniment on the piano
and his accurate, rhythmic interpretation, along with Nick Thomas’s
clear control of tempi and dynamics, supported and guided the choir
through this ambitious work.