In the classical elegance of St. John’s Church Buxton, on the evening of St. George’s Day, two powerful musical forces combined to delight and exhilarate their audience with an existential experience of choral singing.

The forces in question were our own Tideswell Male Voice Choir and its guests from distant Essex: men2sing and the guys dressed in neutral black looked classically professional.

There is something uniquely special about the sound a choir of men can generate: the soaring tenors, the earthy baritones and the growling basses combine to make a powerful instrument which can explore the full spectrum of emotions and under the expert direction of Dennis Kay (Tideswell) and John Trent Wallace (men2sing) they did this to perfection.

men2sing’s version of ‘I Get Around’ was an improbable choice for a male voice choir, but it was performed with great energy and verve and the audience loved it. Tideswell’s brilliant rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was similarly enthusiastically received. It was a pleasure to listen to arrangements of popular songs given the unique male voice choir treatment by these two fine ensembles.

Tideswell fielded two youthful soloists: Tim Robinson stepped forward confidently from the ranks to deliver an impassioned performance of ‘Bui Doi’ from the musical Miss Saigon and Phil Rigley gave an authentically Latin American foot-tapping interpretation of ‘Oh, What a Circus!’ from Evita.

This was not an entirely masculine affair; the programme was punctuated with solos from soprano Lisa Lawton who, with consumate elegance and poise, demonstrated her vocal agility with a varied programme of both grand opera and jazz. Lisa’s performance of ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ and ‘Nella Fantasia’ delighted both the audience and choirs alike with sounds which bypassed our ears and went straight to our souls. In an altogether different second half to her programme she treated us to an equally spine tingling performance of ‘The Man That Got Away’ followed by ‘Circle of Life’ from the musical, The Lion King.

As if to confirm Lisa’s virtuosity, the night ended with the guys from Tideswell backing her in a truly outstanding performance of ‘Nessun Dorma’, which resulted in a spontaneous standing ovation from everybody.

None of this would have been possible without superb musical accompaniment: men2sing were fortunate to have their own accompanist, Clare Penfold, on piano providing them with all they needed to perform the lively arrangements of their chosen pieces.

Tideswell Male Voice Choir enjoyed, as always, the talents of both its Principal Accompanist and Assistant Director of Music, Christopher Ellis, alongside superb percussion provided by Des McGill, the choir’s regular session drummer.

In addition to the feast of vocal excellence to which the audience was treated, Christopher Ellis wowed an already awe-struck crowd with an impromptu performance of Prokofiev’s own piano transcription of ‘The Young Juliet’ from Romeo & Juliet.  Christopher has made his name for his precise mastery of the piano repertoire, breathtaking performances and unbelievable technical skill, all of which were demonstrated beyond doubt here at St. John’s tonight.

T.E.

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