Review: Ripon Choral Society ****

At Ripon Cathedral

With this performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Ripon Choral Society came of age, now safe in the knowledge that they are among the elite of Yorkshire’s most famous choirs.

Immaculate intonation, unlimited power, security, even in the most testing passages, must have left them delighted with their remarkable achievement. It was a huge financial venture, but one that was rewarded by the sight of every seat in this large cathedral being occupied.

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They had invested wisely, the perfect diction of the two outstanding male soloists, Philip Sheffield and Peter Savidge, communicating the utter futility of war, while the young Australian dramatic soprano, Helena Dix, proved a major discovery.

The work also called for a much enlarged Orchestra d’Amici, together with an additional chamber group, both formed from Yorkshire’s professional musicians, the massive outbursts thrilling in intensity.

Yet the evening really belonged to the conductor, John Dunford, who has so honed the choir to this high standard, his unfussy direction shepherding them through the complexities, while he was so clearly helping the orchestra through their difficult role. Adding icing to the cake were the distant voices of the children from Topcliffe’s Chapel Choir of Queen Mary’s.