Celestial Recurrences: Huddersfield Choral Society/Orchestra Of Opera North
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Sometimes an aural conduit to recognition, the musical interpretation of a poem may breathe vigour and life into a bare text. When understood with great perceptiveness by a composer, and expressed by an orchestra or a choir ‘locked-in’ to that same sense of perspicacious instinct, the received effect can be pyrotechnic.
Gifted an extra sonic dimension to meaning, the audience’s antennae are fully attuned to resonances that words alone rarely vouchsafe. And watching what amounted to a spectacle unfolding at Huddersfield Town Hall on Friday night, I was reminded of the oft forgotten truism that Shakespeare is much better performed than left to languish on the written page.
So, sometimes, with poetry. The ensemble’s sterling rendition of composer Tarik O’Regan’s cataclysmically affirming A Celestial Map of the Sky gave great joy and wonder to a blindly turning cosmos. Using texts by Hopkins, Whitman, Jamal, Bourdillon and Hart Crane, O’Regan’s reading gives vent to a sense of awe which is both divinely inspired (Hopkins) and fabulously energetic (Whitman). Bestriding the universe in a Macmillanesque chant, the urgent tempo of the combined forces of Huddersfield Choral Society’s Senior and Junior choirs gave inter-planetary velocity to lines of joyful wonderment. The aerial dynamic of Whitman’s ‘Salut au Monde’, performed with thumping brio by Orchestra of Opera North, yielded an ironic fillip to a reputation turned arid and anachronistic in recent years.
These performances were entirely of a piece with the evening’s swathing themes. United under a banner of the cosmic and the existential, the programme was well conceived, and beautifully executed. No more so than in a thrilling rendition of John Adams’ Harmonium. Not content to give definition to his chosen poetic texts through approximation to meaning, the composer serves up an interpretation infused with the repetitive energy of the machine age.
Not that Minimalism sets limits on Adams’ orotund richness: he betrays the catch-all attribution with works of enormous complexity. Here, the quixotic, but fundamentally silent, word dramas of John Donne and the mobile, almost joyful, anticipation of death’s quietus in Emily Dickinson, are overlain with the verve of excited journeying. The orchestra’s bank of cellos yielded both a brilliant reinforcement of Adams’ quasi-industrial soundscape , and an act of rhythmical mimesis: Dickinson’s words took on the vibrancy of an hypnotic mantra in the extraordinary, and extraordinarily difficult, rendering of lines repeated almost as multi-layered prayers by the mixed and overlapping voices of the choir.
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A concluding word for the animated brilliance of renowned conductor, Paul Daniel, the current Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Galicia, who supervised an evening of enormous diversity with consummate skill.
The concert, a part of Huddersfield Choral Society’s 2018/2019 programme, took place at Huddersfield Town Hall on Friday, 12th April.
Celestial Recurrences: Huddersfield Choral Society/Orchestra Of Opera North, 15th April 2019, 17:22 PM