“Precise dynamic contrasts…”

Thanks to Judith Whitehouse for her highly enjoyable review, below, of our performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, which also appeared in the West Briton. The concert was held in Truro Cathedral on Saturday, 21st March, and we were joined on the day by Truro School Chamber Choir, Truro School Choral Society and Cornwall Youth Choir, who had all rehearsed the piece separately. For our preview, which also appeared in the West Briton, head here.


Paul Comeau at rehearsal

“How do you like to spend your birthday? For Martin Palmer the answer is conducting Truro Choral Society plus two of Truro School’s choirs and the Cornwall Youth Choir — almost 200 voices in all — in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at Truro Cathedral.

“But first, he was given a present — the composer/pianist Paul Comeau, inspired by the coincidence of Palmer and JS Bach sharing a birthday (Bach’s 330th), produced a set of variations for piano and organ on Happy Birthday, played by himself and Cathedral Organ Scholar James Orford. I’m pretty sure it started with The Pink Panther, proceeding via I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside and similar classics, culminating in a pastiche of Tchaikovsky. I thought I’d written them all down, but have mislaid my Chopin Liszt! Needless to say, great fun was had by all.

“You don’t expect fun in a solemn mass, but Rossini had other ideas — from the decidedly jaunty introduction on piano and organ (the Cathedral Father Willis impersonating the specified harmonium) the massed voices entered into the spirit of the work with precise dynamic contrasts and splendid intonation in the unaccompanied passages. The overtly operatic mood of the Gloria introduced the soloists — soprano Cheryl Rosevear and mezzo Rebecca Smith blending ravishingly in their duet, bass Mark Williams powerful and dramatic, and tenor Anthony Mee in full ‘divo’ mode in Domine Deus, with irresistible Tiptoe Through the Tulips accompaniment from Comeau.

“Palmer’s direction made the most of Rossini’s idiosyncratic blend of genial exuberance and underlying devotional commitment, and the singing remained fresh, even in the excessively protracted Amens — 24 pages of them! The chorus also blended well with the soloists — the Sanctus and Agnus Dei fittingly displaying a more serious mood. Splendid accompaniment throughout, even though Comeau and Orford couldn’t even see each other, adding to the mix of dignity and daftness that Rossini obviously intended — if only he’d cut some of those Amens!”
Thanks also to Sarah Griffiths Photography for these photographs. To see the whole album, visit our Facebook page.

James Orford

James Orford

Mark Williams

Mark Williams

Anthony Mee, tenor

Anthony Mee

Cheryl Rosevear, soprano, and Rebecca Smith, mezzo

Cheryl Rosevear and Rebecca Smith