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Patrons: Dame Emma Kirkby and Sir David Willcocks

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Roxanna Panufnik


Chichester Psalms

Westminster Mass


Somerset Chamber Choir

Sophie Bevan

Tim Mead

Sally Pryce

Katherine Bicknell

Rosie Hillier

Gabriella Swallow

Oliver Cox

Owen Gunnell

Richard Pearce

Graham Caldbeck












Click here to view the concert programme


One is used to the plaudits that follow concerts given by the excellent Somerset Chamber Choir under their conductor, Graham Caldbeck, and the concert ‘Eternity’s Sunrise’ given in King’s College Chapel Taunton on Sunday 4 January confirmed the choir’s continuing ability to surprise and thrill.  The programme, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms’, Roxanna Panufnik’s ‘Westminster Mass’, John Rutter’s ‘Requiem’, provided the choir with demanding melodic, harmonic and part-balance challenges and the listener with a diverse but coherent group of 20th century works.


The more familiar outer works gave the audience an opportunity to hear two young and accomplished singers, the soprano Sophie Bevan who showed an ease of singing throughout her considerable range with a warm and distinctive tone that never lost its quality or security even when balanced on a high piano B flat, and Tim Mead, a countertenor with a sound that has a vivid character and an almost sensuous depth enhanced by the singer’s considerable confidence and musicality. The instrumental soloists too, Sally Pryce (harp), Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell (percussion), Katherine Bicknell (flute), Rosie Hillier (oboe), Gabriella Swallow (cello), were excellent choices with each displaying mature judgement and musicianship in their various roles.  Richard Pearce proved once again the organist to master some very demanding accompaniments with accuracy and reliability.


We have Graham Caldbeck to thank for bringing the Panufnik  ‘Westminster Mass’ to the West Country for its first performance.  What a revelation this work, premiered as recently as 1998 at Westminster Cathedral, turned out to be.  In his carefully considered and thought provoking programme notes Graham Caldbeck touched on the transient nature of music and in its fleetingness how its joy and power can touch and transform us in a shared experience, performers and audiences alike. For many the performance of the Mass was probably part of this experience.  It is a deeply spiritual work revealing a composer with a personal and distinctive approach both in her setting of the familiar text and in her use of the choral texture. The choir proved to be equal to the melodic and harmonic hurdles, a marvellous achievement given the limited amount of rehearsal time available.


The opportunity to hear such choral works sung by a very capable choir obviously has much to do with the imaginative programming, skill and knowledge that Graham Caldbeck brings to the Somerset Chamber Choir. Both conductor and choir are to be congratulated and thanked.


Andrew Maddocks



Sunday 4 January 2004

‘Eternity’s sunrise’

King’s College Chapel, Taunton