Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony

“The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams flows in the blood of English choral societies and it’s hard to think of a composer who was more dedicated to the cause of communal music-making. Undeterred by the snow, Music for Everyone rose to the many challenges of his mighty Sea Symphony on Saturday, a work full of the power and mystery of the ocean and one which tests the stamina and range of its performers to the full.

Its enduring popularity with choirs does not mean that it’s easy to bring off a successful performance in the concert hall. On CD engineers can balance its huge forces so that everything is crystal clear. Not so in a live performance. So it’s worth saying that conductor James Lowe not only directed his musicians with insight and energy but he also knew that orchestral restraint was sometimes necessary for greater overall impact. The attack of the opening brass flourish and the choir’s thrilling ‘Behold the Sea itself’ was typical of the performance that followed. The well-matched and eloquent soloists were Claire Seaton and David Stout.

As well as Mendelssohn’s The Fair Melusine, there was more Vaughan Williams in the concert’s first half: his Tallis Fantasia, a magical work which reaches deep into the soul of England and its musical heritage. Again the forces (large and small string groups plus quartet) were perfectly balanced – and as a delightful surprise the performance was preceded by an off-stage choir singing Tallis’ original hymn tune.”

William Ruff, The Nottingham Post