Review: Ilkley and Otley Choral Societies perform Mozart’s Mass in C minor, St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley, Saturday, June 22

THIS was the first Ilkley concert for the new musical director of the combined choral societies – Alexander Kyle – who had chosen this relatively rarely performed work for his debut. Often referred to as ‘the Great’ C minor because of its sheer size, it is also one of Mozart’s unfinished masterpieces with several of the movements incomplete. It is immensely rewarding but also very challenging to sing.

The first half of the program consisted of a series of ‘lollipops’ which allowed the soloists to show their strengths and the choir to warm up. This started with an assured performance of the Haydn motet Insanae et vanae curae, the choir in excellent voice and with a lively organ contribution from Robert Sudall, which continued throughout. William Kyle (baritone) then performed Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville to great applause. James Savage-Hanford (tenor) delivered ‘Descend, kind pity’ from Handel’s Theodora with a beautifully easy legato line. The choir then accompanied Jessica Hopkins’ liquid-toned soprano in the Laudate dominum from Mozart’s Vesperae solennes before Jessica joined Georgie Malcolm (soprano) in the dictation duet from Act 3 of The Marriage of Figaro.

Vital to the success of the C minor mass and one of the glories of this performance were the contributions from the soprano soloists – their music is at times gloriously competitive – their voices need to stretch effortlessly from low A flat to top C. Both Jessica Hopkins and Georgie Malcolm were outstanding here, Georgie particularly in the Et incarnatus est where her bell-like clarity of tone shone out. They had good support in the Quoniam and the Benedictus from the reliable tenor of James Savage-Hanford.

The Ilkley and Otley choirs had been well trained and gave sound performances of the choral movements of the Kyrie and Gloria with good balance and attention to the difficult rhythms. However by the Cum Sancto and the Credo, some tiredness began to show and the running passagework became almost inaudible. Nevertheless there was some recovery for the Sanctus and the final Hosanna rounded off the performance in style. This was a promising start to the relationship between Alexander Kyle and the choirs which I look forward to following in the future.