Review of “Go Brazilian!”

St. Albans Chamber Choir went Brazilian for their summer concert on Saturday (5 July) in St Peter’s Church.

Summer concerts are often like a ‘friendly’ football game, with no pressure and a relatively undemanding programme. On Saturday St Albans Chamber Choir discovered that there is no such thing as a ‘friendly’ against Brazil. Any who were not at their peak of fitness must have found the going tough, as the South American strikers launched wave after wave of attractive, cleverly crafted, and difficult music.

Jean Berger was the first to test the St Albans team with his Brazilian Psalm (1941); hard on his heels came the veteran Juan de Araujo (1646-1712), with Los coflades de la estleya. Finally Heitor Villa Lobos mounted a sustained attack with his Bachianas brasileiras (1945), combining the German discipline of Bach with the flair and energy of Latin America. The Choir met all these challenges head on, with good discipline, particularly in softer passages, which allowed the words to be heard more clearly than they usually are in the St Peter’s acoustic. All this excitement, and we were still only half way through the first half. Then St Albans brought on two players who could beat the Brazilians at their own game. David Wigram, accompanied by Susie Arbeid (piano), launched his saxophone into a thrilling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s History of the Tango. The Choir brought us down to various places on earth with Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue, and it was half time.

The second half was more mellow, as if the Choir had won the respect of the Brazilians and could relax with some well known routines. Listening to Nicholas Hare’s fine arrangement of The Bare Necessities, followed by The Girl from Ipanema, we realised that the match had been abandoned in favour of a session of beach volleyball, and yes, the Tequila Samba. What could they finish with but The Best of the Beach Boys, which was encored with much applause and even dancing in the aisles by one young enthusiast.

A most enjoyable evening, better than the football.

Alan Knott