Darkness and light in Billingshurst Choral Society concert

Cathal Garvey
Cathal Garvey

Billingshurst Choral Society will be in Chichester Cathedral for a concert that combines Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen with Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.

The concert on Saturday, October 20 (7.30pm), will be conducted by Cathal Garvey who has been with the choir since April 2015.

“The Jenkins has got a lot of themes about war in it. It has texts from a wide range of different sources. It uses the Bible and it uses the Indian Mahabharata and it uses a Muslim call to prayer.

“The choir has done it before, but not for a long time. Technically it is not the most difficult piece, which is why we have been able to do it in a relatively short period of time. The biggest challenge is the emoting, the trying to convey the seriousness and the strength of the emotions for people that might be conservative in their style with a small c. There is one bit where the choir has got to scream for about 30 seconds. I just get them to undulate up and down. It is meant to convey horrors, and that can be quite challenging for some people who like to hide in a big choir!

“The Lux Aeterna is a modern piece by Morten Lauridsen, an American composer who is still alive. He is 75 now. He has written lots of popular choral music. It has been compared to the Faure Requiem or the Brahms Requiem. The Verdi is full of fire and brimstone, but the Faure is very calm and accepting and soothing, and this one is similar.

“The texts are all about light and they are all from different sources. Every verse is about light. There is a great emphasis on that. And it is very benign, very soothing, very calming, very, very attractive. The choir really love it. They love it even more than I do. They have done it before. I have come to it in the last month and a half and it is really growing on me.”

The concert will start with the Lauridsen as being smaller in scale, a piece that is just choir and organ. The Jenkins comes with an ensemble of ten players: “The real meat of the players is the percussion section, which is really huge.”

Cathal is midway through his fourth year with the choir now – and is well used to the weekly hour and three quarters trip down from south London for rehearsals: “They are very much a good home counties choir, a bit rural in a way. Only some of them come from Billingshurst. It is a very wide catchment area. They are a good happy-go-lucky choir.”

Last year saw a big drop-off in numbers, but this year has brought a couple of open days, the first of which brought two or three members to the choir; the second brought in a few more who will be joining later in the season.

“But it is a constant battle to keep numbers up.”

Tickets from www.billingshurstchoralsociety.org or on the night at the door.

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