This review appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on
1 June 2007. It is reproduced here with permission.
Copyright © Newsquest (North East) Ltd, 2007
Impressive farewell to chorus director
Impressive in its spartan simplicity, Ampleforth Abbey was the venue for the North Yorkshire Chorus's farewell concert honouring its principal conductor and chorus director, Martin Hindmarsh.
Hindmarsh, who has led the chorus for the past 11 years, is leaving to further pursue his personal musical career together with his wife, the mezzo-soprano Jennifer Westwood.
The abbey is steeply vaulted and has a superbly resonant acoustic, perfect for instrumental and liturgical music, though perhaps not ideal for clarity of diction. The hard wooden benches, alas, seem specifically designed for mortification of the flesh.
The choral pieces suffered somewhat from this resonance, though the soloists had fewer problems clarifying the lyrics. However, the printed programme provided us with the words, and of course, the opening piece - Durufle's Requiem - follows the familiar form of the mass.
This is a very beautiful work, starting with the men's voices in a fluid melodic requiem aeternam and joined by the sopranos and altos in positively heavenly cadences, flowing seamlessly into the Kyrie.
Hindmarsh sang the baritone solos in the Domine and Libera me sections, and Westwood delivered the Pie Jesu with a thrilling combination of strength and tender supplication.
The chorus performed superbly overall in the Durufle Requiem, but some passages were outstanding even by those standards. These included the light-as-air entry of the altos in the Agnus Dei, followed in similar style by the men and sopranos, and finally a full chorus Lux aeterna, with an effective wordless accompaniment by the men to the women's voices.
Greg Smith provided a superb organ accompaniment. An accomplished organist and pianist, he has won many prizes at competitions throughout the country. In 1990, just one year after joining the Royal Northern College of Music, he won the under-21 Paisley International Organ Festival, leading to an organ tour.
He holds a variety of conducting and accompanying posts, and is director of music at Ripon Cathedral Choir School. He will, from September, take up the position of principal conductor and chorus master of the North Yorkshire Chorus from Hindmarsh.
The second half of the concert included, among other items, Three Biblical Songs by Stanford, excellently performed by Westwood, a memorable solo performance by Smith of an organ piece by Franck, and an outstanding delivery of Sanctus Fortis from Dream of Gerontius sung by Hindmarsh. What a very fine voice he has, and how beautifully he interprets Elgar's lovely music.
It is to be hoped he will not neglect to visit the chorus as a guest in the future.