Sterndale Bennett's cantata, “The May Queen,” is not nearly so frequently performed as its intrinsic merit as a musical composition warrants. It was peculiarly appropriate that "the merrie month" should have been selected by the Woodbridge Choral Society for its representation. The audience in the Lecture Hall on Wednesday night was fairly large and entirely enthusiastic, and a creditable version of the tuneful work was greatly enjoyed. The listeners were so keenly appreciative of the efforts of the performers that encores were the exception rather than the rule, and the soloists must have come to the conclusion that Woodbridge is a very desirable place.
The Society, which owes much to the enthusiasm and sheer hard work of Mr. H. M. Timbers (the conductor), has made considerable progress since its last concert, and on Wednesday evening its forty performing members gave an extremely good account of themselves. Considering the extent of the resources, the Woodbridgeans may be adjudged to have interpreted the work in happy style, and that they succeeded in affording delight to the listeners, was manifest.
Miss Nellie Warren, the soprano soloist, sang throughout the cantata in that delightful way which has made her a favourite with local audiences. Her upper register was clear and her finish artistic, and the successive solos which fall to the May Queen were excellently treated. Early in the work she obtained a recall with the solo part of "With a laugh as we go round,” an achievement that was somewhat remarkable. In a duet, "Can I not find,” Miss Warren sang charmingly, her efforts in the trio, which treats of “the hawthorn in the glade," were greatly admired, and her singing, in the finale proved highly acceptable.
Mrs. Stuart Mackenzie, the contralto, had comparatively little to do; but she did that little, well. “What mean these angry sounds” was given with so much richness that it was eagerly applauded, and the soloist is entitled to full commendation.
The tenor part was ably sustained by Mr. A. J. King, whose voice was very capably utilised. "O meadow clad" was excellently rendered, and in the concerted music Mr. King performed his share with credit, his singing being tasteful and tuneful.
Mr. A. H. Welburn, the bass, had his great opportunity with "'Tis jolly to hunt," which was finely interpreted, the rotundity and mellowness of a beautiful voice being fitly exemplified. Mr. Welburn also emerged with honour from the ordeal imposed by the concerted numbers.
The chorus produced some admirable results. A somewhat disappointing start was atoned for by some very bright singing in "With a laugh," and later on "Hark! their notes" was accorded a satisfactory rendering, the blending of the voices being noticeably good. The finale, "And the cloud hath passed away," was so greatly enjoyed that it had to be repeated, a compliment that was richly deserved.
The orchestra, which was led by Mr. Mudd, played very well indeed throughout. The overture was good, and the pageant music afforded the opportunity of producing an impressive volume of sound.
Mr. W. Crotch, A.L.C.M, was the pianist, and Mr. E. Rowland played the organ music, both rendering valuable service.
Mr. Timbers conducted with that care and concientiousness which one has learned to associate with his name, and the outcome was a decided success.
In a miscellaneous second half the audience was insatiable. Half a dozen contributions were extended to eleven by encores, and the enjoyment that was derived was very great.
Mr. Crotch scored with a brilliantly played overture by Ivan Caryll; Mrs. Stuart MAckenzie won approval with Hatton's "The Enchantress," which she repeated; Mr. King gave Tosti's "Parting" with charming effect, and substituted "Mary" in response to a recall; Miss Nellie Warren was similarly successful with "The Scent of the Lilies," her second selection being "The Nights"; and Mr Welburn snag "Sir Nigel's Song" (Monk Gould) so admirably as to win a general call, in acknowledgement of which he gave a stirring interpretation of "Four jolly sailormen."
The orchestra played a selection after the interval with capital results, and altogether the evening was entirely successful from the point of view of the applause that was forthcoming.