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REVIEW: Mustard Seed Singers at St Peter's Methodist Church, Canterbury

By Canterbury Times  |  Posted: April 28, 2013

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THE near capacity audience at the Mustard Seed Singers’ fundraising concert at Canterbury’s St Peter’s Methodist Church on Thursday April 11 was confronted by a sea of black and red as this singing group in collaboration with Cantores Dominicae, a well established community singing group from Lyminge, combined their collective talents to produce a musically satisfying evening. The ladies looked resplendent with flowing red scarves flowing over their black clothing and the men donned red ties.

The evening began with the joint choirs performing the Howard Goodall setting of ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, familiar to many from ‘The Vicar of Dibley’. Eight year-old Maurice Caldon, nephew of Eleanor Caldon, founder and director of the Mustard Seed Singers, sang the opening verse and the final ‘forever’ in a controlled voice which brought justified applause from the audience.

Cantores Dominicae, under the direction of Adrian Bawtree, then performed a couple of pieces, Anton Bruckner’s ‘Locus Iste’ and ‘Everlasting God’ by Orlando Gibbons. These were sung with great professionalism and the latter piece was particularly moving. The Mustard Seed Singers then took centre stage and performed three familiar and contrasting songs: ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Blue Moon’, arranged by Elle Caldon and Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’, a song whose beauty and meaning become more poignant with each performance. The first half was concluded with both groups collaborating in three songs. The first of these was Ralph Vaughan-Williams moving ‘Dona Nobis’, ‘Alleluyah’ and ‘We Circle Around’. All of these were sung as rounds, the last named involving enthusiastic audience participation. During the interval, singers and audience alike ate home made cakes and consumed soft drinks, for which donations were made to Mustard Seed Singers.

The Mustard Seed Singers began the second half with the familiar ‘Skye Boat Song’ and the evergreen ‘Danny Boy’, both sung in quite elaborate harmonies, an example of Elle’s fine teaching. This set ended with Leonard Cohen’s dramatic and spirited ‘Hallelujah’, the emotion of which came out strongly from every voice. Adrian Bawtree, director of Cantores Dominicae, a fine organist and pianist, also possesses a talent for combining songs that nobody else would think of linking together yet in his deft hands ‘Kookaburra Sings in the old Gum Tree’ blended perfectly with ‘Waltzing Matilda’. For me the most heart rending moment came when the two groups joined forces to perform ‘Sunset Lilli’. This combined the familiar World War Two song ‘Lilli Marlene’ with ‘Sunset and evening Star’, Sir Hubert Parry’s setting of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ‘Crossing the Bar’. More famous for his setting of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’, Parry’s setting of Tennyson’s famous and moving poem deserves to be better known. The centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of the First World War was in the forefront of Adrian’s mind when he arranged this piece. The evening concluded with both groups performing the spiritual ‘Soon I will Be Done’ and the ‘Swing Low’ medley in which different sections of the choirs and audience sang at the same time ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ and ‘ The Bare Necessities’. The audience left well satisfied with the evening’s entertainment and donated a grand total of £420 to Mustard Seed Singers, a splendid achievement by any standard.

John Rose

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