Christina Sivititer  reviews Dawlish Choral Society’s recent concert Christ on the Mount of Olives held at St Gregory’s Church.

The first half of the programme offered a range of short pieces in support of the main work. 

Guest soloists were Ann Draisey (soprano) and James Bellamy (baritone). The string ensemble was led by Adrian Janssen  accompanied by John Draisey (organ) and the piano solos were played by musical director Nicholas Gardiner.

The concert  began with the much-loved Prelude in C major by J. S. Bach. The famous recording of this by Glenn Gould was selected to go in the space ship to the far reaches of the Universe. 

Two choir pieces, “Jesu dulcis memoria” by T. L. Victoria, and “Christus factus est” by F. Aniero, interspersed the instrumental pieces.

Ann and James sang solos by Blow and Hayden and combined their voices for a charming duet by Mozart. 

More Mozart was provided by the string ensemble and John Draisey on the keyboard organ, who performed two of Mozart’s Church, or Epistle, Sonatas, short works full of musical interest. 

The choir closed the first half with the sweet reflective  “Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart. 

Once again, Nicholas Gardiner with the Dawlish Choral Society brought a “new” work to surprise us. 

Beethoven’s “Christ on the Mount of Olives” is not the usual approach to the Easter story of the Crucifixion, of which there are many familiar interpretations, but an oratorio set in the week before. 

This explores the mental torment that Jesus underwent in coming to terms with the sacrifice he alone could  make to redeem mankind. 

He spent his last night before his arrest in a vigil of prayer on the holy Mount of Olives. While his Disciples slept, an Angel, or Seraph, came to him to console him. 

We are blessed with the remarkable soprano Carmen Lasok, whose heart-stoppingly beautiful solo arias soared effortlessly up to top E. Jesus was sung by Jonathan Waterworth. His warm clear tenor richly conveyed  the human dimension, when he begged His Father to take the Cup of the Wrath of God  away from him. 

His aria “Ah, my soul within me shudders” was dramatically supported by the orchestral scoring.  When he finally accepted his fate, the chorus burst into “Oh Triumph!”, where Beethoven used wonderful fugue effects from the four parts.

The soldiers stormed into the olive grove with military menace, “Behold him!” with all the power of Rome. The altos boosted the force, while the sopranos showed the panic and confusion among the Disciples. 

Our Michael Smith, baritone, tried to resist the soldiers with his sword, but Jesus rebuked him. 

The soldiers cried “Haste, and seize upon the Traitor”, and it descended into tumultuous confusion. The chorus closed the evening with a triumphal “Hallelujah” celebrating the mission accomplished of redeeming mankind, and displayed Beethoven’s skill at weaving the parts into an exhilarating  whole.

The evening was held in support of the Rowcroft Hospice, who supplied the most welcome interval tea and biscuits. Raffles and refreshments realised  about £98. 

Thanks go to the Manor House and St. Gregory’s Church for their help. We are also grateful to Dawlish Town Council, Teignbridge District Council and Devon County Council for their continuing financial support. 

Furthermore, we would like to thank the Library Service for their assistance and loan of music scores.

For further information, please ring our Chairman, Ailsa Spackman, on 01626 891584. We are preparing a programme of Gilbert and Sullivan for a performance in St, Gregory’s Church on Saturday July 6, 2024. Our rehearsals will start on Monday, April 8, at 7.30 pm in the Manor House, Old Town Street, Dawlish. We are a friendly group and always welcome new members.