Brighton and Hove’s community choirs are the jewels in the city’s music scene and they exemplify the truth about one of the world’s most commonly misused words. The Rainbow Chorus last night gave us the near perfect display of the reality. Their summer concert was delivered with passion, with commitment and from the heart. The word amateur means just that, done from passion and not for profit. Over the years it has been wrongly used to say that something is not very good, flawed perhaps and certainly  not delivered by so called professionals. And if you are in that camp then shape up and look again.

All this said I approached this concert with some trepidation. The Rainbows are loved for their spirited performances of pop and popular song, occasionally dipping their collective toes into something classical, but on the whole erring on the safe side of the musical repertoire. That is not to say that popular music does not pose challenges, it certainly can and some of the arrangements for choirs can be very challenging indeed…

…Then you get Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, a work that they would sing in full and in an arrangement by TB Pratt. This is music penned at the end of the baroque era as music morphed into what we now know as classical. It is beautiful and beautifully difficult, the time signatures complex, the tonality too with dissonances that at first seem strange but gradually reveal pure beauty.

Can a choir like the Rainbows do this? Well the answer soon became clear, they certainly can, and they did it with an air of confidence and style. No doubt there would be nerves borne of this bold move, but they did not show, and the audience, no doubt expecting a programme lighter in content, were blown away.

Accompanied by a first class string quartet formed by members of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, Sophia Bartlette and Nikki Bates, first and second violin, Ros Hansen on viola and Siriol Hugh Jones on cello, they laid the solid foundation for this performance.

Stabat Mater is scored for two soprano soloists or two counter tenors, but conductor Aneesa Chaudhry explained that the solos would be spread across sopranos and tenors, she also explained that due to illness two of those solos would be sung by people who were stepping in with only 24 hours notice. Well I doubt anyone would have noticed had she not mentioned it. Deborah Harding-Newton was amazing as were Lisa Fitzgerald, Matthew McConkey and Phil Ulyatt, all equally impressive.

If this is pointing towards the future of this choir we are in for some very exciting times ahead.

Part two took us to the choirs comfort zone but there was a marked difference in this performance. Back in the day, as an art student, my life was defined by life drawing, it was the fixed point in my education and underpinned everything that I was being taught, it was the discipline behind the fun, and doing it has always paid off.

Tackling the Pergolesi has maybe underpinned the choir’s musical development, there was a new confidence in their performance, a stronger sense of time, more confident pitching and with that came more smiles, less visible nerves and real joy, joy from discipline maybe.

Bring Me Sunshine set the tone, Mr Blue Sky, May It Be and then a very beautifully sung As Torrents In Summer from Elgar’s King Olaf, and why not, they proved they were up to this in part one.

Antony and The Johnson’s You Are My Sister, a wonderful song, again delightfully delivered before a few rollicking pop numbers.

Fix You brought us back to something more refined, Bohemian Rhapsody some fun and two songs from the musical Hair let rip some exuberant joy, then to finish a song I like from a show I dislike, but here This Is Me is totally appropriate and poignant.

The Rainbow Chorus have certainly set their own bar very high, but also for every other choir in town. Ambition realised!

Andrew Kay

29 June

St George’s Kemp Town


One Response

  1. Siriol Hugh-Jones says:

    Not sure where you got the information that the quartet were all members of the Brighton Phil? That’s not accurate.

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