Mary's Church, Richmond
two minutes of the North Yorkshire Chorus opening Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle,
it was no longer the late-November cold snap putting goose pimples down
my neck, but a sense of being overwhelmed by the occasion and by the
The power of the singing in such a splendid
setting was truly impressive.
That the choir was not at
full strength owing to the bad weather was testimony to those who did
make it on the night.
Though depleted, the chorus
was never found lacking, with talented conductor and pianist Greg Smith
driving the singers forward with subtle energy.
documentary evidence of St Mary's existence in 1137. But whenever
it was built, it is easy to appreciate the importance that good
acoustics played when designing a church in those days - a quality lost
in most modern buildings.
Full of drama and intensity, Rossini's Petite Messe was
written not for a church, but for performance to a select audience in a
lavishly furnished Parisian countess's town house. This heartfelt
religious work was his last serious work.
The variety of movements is extraordinary, including sublime
solos, delightful duets and tantalising trios.
At 80 minutes long, excluding the interval, the performance was hardly
"petite", but neither did it ever feel long.
The evening was brought to a climax with an outstanding solo by
Anna Burford. The mezzo-soprano, though slight in stature,
managed to pull a powerful voice from the soles of her feet to create a
beautiful room-filling, resonant sound.
It was all a thoroughly enjoyable experience.