Chester Music Society celebrated its 70th season with a concert at the Cathedral that was packed with talented performers.
The Chester Music Society Choir event in Chester Cathedral brought together many performers, including the Cathedral’s own choristers, in a performance of Benjamin Britten’s cantata St Nicolas and the society’s youth choir for the world première of a new commission of Noah’s Fire by Philip Cooke.
The birth, life and death of St Nicolas – the origin of Santa Claus – was celebrated by a confident performance by the two choirs, supported by Joseph Martin as the young saint and by Henry Booher, Peter Evans and Sam Rushforth as the three ‘pickled boys’ who, the legend tells, were brought back to life by Nicolas.
Tenor soloist Philip Sheffield gave an excellent account of the solo part while Graham Eccles at the cathedral organ gave support in this work and later in Noah’s Fire.
In the second half of the concert the audience were given their first exposure to Philip Cooke’s setting – to an original libretto by Ben Kaye – of the fanciful tale of Chester’s Mystery Plays and the disaster which befell the guilds when fire broke out.
This featured a performance by both senior and youth choirs with some outstanding singing by a semi-chorus of ‘harlots’ and by Liverpool Sinfonia orchestra.
Baritone Robert Rice singing as both as narrator and Alderman provided the background to the story while choir member bass Chris Green took the part of Noah himself.
The entire assembly was coordinated by the society’s talented musical director Graham Jordan Ellis.
As a prelude to the concert prominent members of the Chester community were invited to a reception in the Cathedral Refectory where society chairman David Woods welcomed VIPs from the cathedral, the University of Chester, Chester Mystery Plays and Chester Performs.