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Members  © 2011 Somerset Chamber Choir  Registered Charity No.1003687  

Patrons: Dame Emma Kirkby and Sir David Willcocks

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Vaughan Williams




Beati quorum via

The Spirit of the Lord (The Apostles)

Missa Brevis

Set me as a seal upon thine heart

Canticle I: My beloved is mine


My soul, there is a country

Brigg Fair

Three Shakespeare Songs

The ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

5 English Folk Song arrangements

Old Joe has gone fishing (Peter Grimes)


Richard Pearce

Greg Tassell

Graham Caldbeck

Piano and organ





Click here to view the concert programme


An all-British music programme to mark the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth this year was presented by The Somerset Chamber Choir at its Sunday afternoon concert in King’s College Chapel, Taunton [17 February].

Graham Caldbeck, the conductor, had selected a diverse mixture of pieces by Britten and a number of the composer’s older contemporaries and immediate predecessors. This served to highlight how Britten’s style and range of vocal composition was outward reaching, inclusive and global in dimension. Britten was very much ‘his own man’, and like his 17th century musical hero, Henry Purcell, pursued a path that in so many ways is unique, but whose compositions will invariably engage the listener, intellectually and emotionally. Britten intentionally wrote meritorious music for performers of all shades of ability and age and this inclusivity remains his huge appeal long after his death.

The singers of the Somerset Chamber Choir invariably responded with success to the challenges set, having to make rapid mental and emotional adjustments for the ever-changing tempos, styles and techniques each piece, section or passage presented. The ladies gave a handsome account of themselves in Britten’s Missa Brevis, as did the men in The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. However the technical questions posed were not always answered with equal conviction. A.M.D.G., the complete work not performed in Britten’s life-time, had mixed success with the singers rather stretched in God’s grandeur, while happily striding out in The soldier. Again the clear lines, effective phrasing and good ensemble of Stanford’s Beati quorum via and Parry’s My soul, there is a country were countered by some uneasy tuning in Walton’s Set me as a seal and awkward chording in Vaughan Williams’ The Cloud-capp’d towers.

The young tenor, Greg Tassell, was the choir’s ideal guest soloist for this programme. His sound has real poise and was first heard in Britten’s Canticle I, one of very many pieces written for Britten’s companion, Peter Pears. Overt in its erotic overtones, Tassell respected Britten’s intentions throughout without indulgence, while Grainger’s Brigg Fair demonstrated his superb breathing ability and fluency of sound.

In Richard Pearce, the choir and soloist had an outstanding piano and organ accompanist, always sympathetic and always at the service of the music and performers.

Under the assured direction of its conductor since 1990, Graham Caldbeck, Somerset Chamber Choir has grown in stature and confidence, continuing to do so as it heads into its 30th year.


Andrew Maddocks

Published in the Somerset County Gazette

Sunday 17 February 2013

King’s College Chapel, Taunton

‘Great Britain - Great Britten!’

Click to download concert poster


Somerset Chamber Choir gratefully acknowledges the support of the Britten-Pears Foundation towards the staging of this concert.