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Chepstow Choral Society concluded their 2015/2016 season in fine style with their contribution to Chepstow Festival 2016, which was entitled a Summer Gala Concert, consisting of popular opera choruses, solos, and duets , along with some light opera and musical theatre.

This was an ideal choice of music for such an evening, and it was reflected in the excellent audience attendance., a clear indication that, despite the many rival attractions within the Chepstow Festival – and the sporting attractions on TV! – there is an enthusiasm amongst music-lovers for this kind of programme.

The choir were ably helped by the choice of excellent soloists. Angharad Morgan (soprano) and Stephen Hamnett (bass) are both superb professional singers and provided some wonderful singing. Angharad’s solos (including the famous Puccini aria O Mio Babbino Caro, Dvorak’s Song to the Moon from “Rusalka” and Gershwin’s Summertime) proved to be quite stunning, as did her solo with the choir in Mozart’s Voyager’s Chorus from “Idomeneo”.. Stephen Hamnett demonstrated a wealth of experience with highly varied contributions., ranging from the famous bass solo within the Waltz Scene from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” –supported by the choir who thoroughly entered into the spirit of the piece, producing a real party atmosphere (complete with interaction , and glass of wine passed, to the conductor at the start! - to Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter and Gershwin. Stephen inserted a highly topical extra verse into When Britain Really Ruled the Waves, and his rendering of Cole Porter’s Tale of the Oyster illustrated his huge capacity for delivering excellent contrasting bass solo items.. Angharad and Stephen joined forces in two iconic duets –Mozart’s La Ci Darem, and Gershwin’s Bess You Is My Woman Now, and these were sung with brilliant artistry. Ruth Rusling (trumpet) played a magnificent contribution to Verdi’s famous Grand Triumphal March and the G & S March of Peers from “Iolanthe”, and also played a beautiful solo, On My Own from “Les Miserables”.

The Choir rose to the occasion well –delivering opera choruses within a concert setting is not easy and it is to their credit that they conveyed a range of contrasting styles well. The chosen programme itself, directed by the Society’s Musical director Graham Bull, was excellent entertainment which was hugely appreciated by the audience.

The evening concluded with presentations to Marjorie Duerden, the Society’s piano accompanist, for whom this performance was her final one in that role. Marjorie has chosen to stand down as the Society’s pianist , a job she has done fully for some 16 years, and this concert certainly marked a fitting finale. Marjorie accompanied every item on the programme and her playing was simply superb, responding to the many changes of mood and the demands the music created – huge sensitivity in solos and duets, and coping brilliantly with the demands that opera choruses present in their orchestral piano reductions versions!

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