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Patrons: Dame Emma Kirkby and Sir David Willcocks

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Domenico Scarlatti





Ode for St Cecilia’s day

Iste confessor

Te Deum

Regina Coeli

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Double violin concerto


Somerset Chamber Choir


Sophie Bevan

Daniel Auchincloss

Håkan Vramsmo

Theresa Caudle

Jean Paterson

Graham Caldbeck


Director: Theresa Caudle







Click here to view the concert programme


If St. Cecilia was listening from on high to the performance in Wells Cathedral last Saturday (28 July) of Handel’s setting of a John Dryden’s Ode to the saint, then she would certainly have enthusiastically led the applause on this occasion. And who knows an angel

might have appeared in the Cathedral, to use Dryden’s own words, “mistaking earth for heaven” as the Somerset Chamber Choir, soloists and Canzona “raised the wonder higher”. The alchemist of this success was Graham Caldbeck, the conductor, as he once again demonstrated his undoubted skills, musicianship, and leadership qualities.


Programming is a major key to the achievement enjoyed by concerts staged by the Somerset Chamber Choir. Its content often leads the audience from the more familiar to less known pieces that reveal themselves to be real gems. Among the latter was Scarlatti’s Iste confessor and Michel de Lalande’s Regina Coeli. Graham Caldbeck, under whose direction the Somerset Chamber Choir continues to flourish, gave us performances of these and other Baroque period works that were authoritative and knowledgeable. His attention to style and in particular ornamentation achieves very animated and convincing results.


The Somerset Chamber Choir, accompanied by determined string playing from Canzona, sang with confidence and dedication from the very opening chorus of Bach’s Advent cantata Nun komm, der heiden heiland (Come now, Saviour of the gentiles) through to the final mighty sounds of Handel’s Ode. This is a choir that presents itself well and demonstrated the importance of a good blend between the parts.


The evening was blessed by some very elegant solo singing from Sophie Bevan (soprano), Daniel Auchincloss (tenor) and Håkan Vramsmo (baritone). As a trio they were most effective in Lalande’s Regina coeli and Auchincloss was at his most successful in the “Sharp violins proclaim” (Ode to St. Cecilia) in which the aria was immensely energised by some appropriately vigorous string playing from Canzona. Elsewhere more empathy for key words (eg the recitative “When Nature”) would have been appreciated. Sophie Bevan has a voice of real beauty. Her evenness of sound throughout her range, her effortless breathing and her faultless tuning gave her lyrical arias poise and balance through some careful phrasing. Her embellishments in the quicker numbers didn’t carry the same conviction as the jewels of melodic decoration that she applied to Iste confessor, nevertheless Sophie Bevan produces a heavenly sound.


The one purely instrumental item was Bach’s Double Violin Concerto given a competent but rather mundane account by its soloists, Theresa Caudle and Jean Paterson. The outer movements were workman-like without stirring the blood and the slow movement was a

rather ponderous affair.


The Somerset Chamber Choir already have a well-deserved reputation and this concert did much to confirm and underline that.


Andrew Maddocks

Saturday 28 July 2007

Wells Cathedral

‘Glorious Baroque’