What the press has said
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius Ripon Cathedral 21st March 2015
Joshua Ellicott Tenor
John Cunningham Bass-baritone
Ripon Choral Society & Orchestra D'Amici
John Dunford Conductor
This concert began with a warm tribute by the Dean to the memory of Philip Miles, conductor of Ripon Choral Society 1980-1997. Philip Miles conducted the choir in Dream of Gerontius in 1991 and so this
concert, attended by members of his family, was given as a thanksgiving for his outstanding
contribution to the musical life of Ripon.
'Gerontius' is everyman. John Henry Newman relates the peaceful dying of a devout man who is then
guided by an angel towards judgment, purgatory and the promise of glory.
For me Dream of Gerontius is the most accessible of Elgar's choral works, full of longing and stirring
tunes. Elgar speaks so much of England - it is difficult to say how or why - and yet in one of our finest
cathedrals Gerontius does express so much of all that is English.
In this performance special mention should be made of the viola and cello playing which features in
the introduction to parts one and two. Rich warmth of tone and careful attention to the conductor
shaped a yearning quality echoed by the whole orchestra throughout the evening.
Joshua Ellicott was an outstanding Gerontius. His ability to paint the meaning of the words took us to
the heart of both music and poetry. So much of Gerontius' part is as a soliloquy - as though singing as
he thought and felt - an almost impossible feat brilliantly achieved by the soloist, sensitively
accompanied by Orchestra D'Amici.
Martha McLorinan sang the part of the Angel with commitment and feeling. More comfortable in the
Iower register than the notes at the top of the mezzo-soprano range she was nevertheless a
sympathetic guide to Ellicott's Gerontius. John Cunningham sang the priest and Angel of Agony
persuasively but with a degree of vibrato that was not always comfortable on the ear.
The stars of the evening (apart from Elgar!) were Ripon Choral Society. Their partnership with
conductor John Dunford is a marriage made in heaven. John Dunford brings the very best out of this
choir, which has been under his baton since 1997. The choir responds to his every gesture. You can
tell not only by the glorious sound they make by members' hawk-like watchfulness of their
conductor's every move. Ripon Choral Society now has an extraordinary range of expression and
colour demonstrated both in the quieter passages, for example as the Souls of Purgatory, and in the
exultant hymn, Praise to the Holiest in the Height. It is always a pleasure to review their concerts. It
must now surely be said that Ripon Choral Society is one of the best large choirs in the country.
Thank you for a glorious evening in memory of a previous great conductor. As Ripon choral society
aspires to ever new heights the words of the Dean at the beginning of the evening ring true, this
certainly was a Red Letter Day for Ripon and its 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... 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.
David Denton, Yorkshire Post, April 2011 [Britten: War Requiem]