Last weekend’s celebration of the amazing work Simon Halsey has done over the last 30 years for choral singing in Birmingham, and indeed around the world, continued with the showcasing of his exciting new venture at the University of Birmingham’s music department.
Itself celebrating the first anniversary of its installation in the spectacular new Bramall Music Building, the department hosted two of the campus’s vibrant choirs (the Birmingham University Singers, and the University Women’s Choir), conducted not only by Simon but also by two of his postgraduate students from his brand-new ground-breaking MA course in choral conducting..
Joshua Rohde and Jan Wilke have already acquired from Simon a fluency of delivery, a sensitivity to words, and an ear for balance. What needs developing now is a feel for pacing, for timing between movements, and a need to eradicate solo timbres obtruding in the ensemble.
The nature of this programme - another celebration, one day after the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten - meant that there were many bitty sections. Simon of course shaped them naturally; the postgrads needed a bit more of an overview of their structures.
There were so many heartening contributions here: Catherine White was the sonorous harpist in the Ceremony of Carols, Charles Penn was the expert pianist (though we did miss the organ colours needed in Rejoice in the Lamb), and all the soloists emerged from the ranks, with Lauren Morris a soprano to look out for, a voice full of personality, and an engaging stage-presence.