Sensitive and Devoted Song

The Bulawayo Music Club’s meeting last night featured performances by Bulawayo Choral Society under Hugh Fenn with organist Leslie Owen of Faure’s Requiem and the Gloria of Vivaldi. Given at St. John’s Cathedral, the performances are to be repeated on Sunday evening.

The absence of an orchestra did not adversely affect the Faure. It is an austere, very personal piece of great conviction and beauty, and the simplicity of a chamber performance underlines the strength of Faure’s melodic invention.

Apart from an unusual technical excellence, the choral singing last night was devoted and entirely sensitive. The fine solo work by Diana Cowan (soprano) and Maurice Kibel (bass) capped one of the finest choral achievements we have heard here for some time.

Vivaldi’s Gloria is an angular, extrovert conception, and despite resourceful registration, Mr. Owen was never fully able to make the organ an effective substitute for the orchestra, which Vivaldi uses here with pungency and excitement. If the organ had maintained a sharply defined rhythmic momentum, something might still have been salvaged, but the pulse was slack and often at odds with the singers, who struggled to keep a forward rhythmic impetus. In the end, the performance sundered in dissension.

Diana Owen was joined here as soloist by Daphne Forrest (contralto), a singer of great character, who must be bullied to appear more often.

I understand that this will be Diana Cowan’s farewell performance. Throughout the evening she sang with the dignity, intelligence and instinctive purity of line which have graced all her work here. She will be much missed.

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