The National Forest Choir consisting of children from four primary schools, were core participants in the world premiere of Howard Moody's Songs of the Forest based on nineteen verses covering many centuries from pre Shakespeare to Sassoon.
This curious mix of voices, orchestra and jazz elements began with a painfully shrieking solo saxophone, initially depicting primeval England. Without the prop of full programme notes, an exuberant solo electric guitar seemed a strangely gratuitous inclusion.
Baritone and soprano soloists were frequently obliterated by thick scoring, text lost or unintelligible, however we were charmed by violinist Ken Aiso ? s imaginative birdsong, somewhat more convincing than his prosaic rendering of Vaughan Williams? ethereal Lark Ascending earlier in the concert.
Fortunately the children were, for the most part, articulate and clear, both in their ?shout-singing? - battling with full-on brass, but particularly in quieter passages where pitch was more convincing. Imaginative inclusions of whistling, sound effects and fun hand gestures were an added bonus. The Children?s Music Workshop must be congratulated for much hard work over a long period. A noble memory job by the youngsters gave conductor Nicholas Kok all the eye contact he needed for his comprehensive direction of this complex work.
Monster video screens delivered images of nature, interspersed with beguiling shots of hawk-eyed young performers and the excellent musicians of East Midlands ? own Vi VA orchestra.
Thirty million trees newly planted in the National Forest would appear to be in safe hands, as we discovered, in verse and song.
* Lichfield Festival continues until July 17. Details from 01543 306 270