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With every ticket sold before the performance, and still more queuing outside All Saints’ Church Brenchley, the doors were closed and the audience were ready for a memorable evening of Mozart.


I sat at the back of the church to hear the concert begin with MOZART AVE VERUM,

composed just six months before Mozart’s death, for the feast of Corpus Christi. This was a well chosen and beautiful opening to the concert with sensitive harmonic blending and a reverence that this piece demanded.


The Chamber Orchestra then played MOZART CHURCH SONATA in D major followed by CPE BACH SINFONIA in C major.  Both pieces were joyful to hear and accurately demonstrated the brilliant skills and tonal excellence of every string instrumentalist - a fitting prelude to Mozart’s Requiem which was to follow after the interval.


MOZART REQUIEM: Mozart wrote this Requiem Mass just before his early death aged 35. He was unable to complete it and his heightened emotions and sadness at this time are reflected in this huge unfinished work. The choir and orchestra produced a performance with the energy and passion that this work demanded and were led by four professional soloists who filled the church with glorious, rich and mature sounds. The ambition and resolve to perform this emotional work, which has some difficult and rhythmically challenging choral sections, was thoroughly commendable in every aspect under the experienced leadership of music director Roland Millar.  


Roland demonstrated his thorough and complete understanding of every choral part and, with that attention to detail, he was able to blend the choir and orchestra with a strong focused beat.  The dynamics and diction were well observed and, if I could make any suggestions, these could have been even more exaggerated for added drama and contrast. 


It was easy to forget that Brenchley Choral Society, a choir of local amateur singers practising together for twelve weeks of the year with just one rehearsal with an orchestra, can perform Mozart’s Requiem to such a high standard.


It was obvious that Roland is a brilliant teacher and music director and was appreciated and respected by every performer. His attention to detail, knowledge and calm approach to performance were exemplary.  Roland has opened the doors again for many, after the pandemic, and has enabled amateur musicians to experience again the fulfilment and sheer joy of performing some of the best musical masterpieces ever composed.


Thank you all for a wonderful evening of music. We look forward to the next performance in 2024.


Rosemary Creed








A little bit of France came to Brenchley church this spring courtesy of the village’s choral society and its music director Roland Millar. A packed house was able to enjoy two works by Gabriel Fauré — including his famous Requiem — and Claude Debussy, interspersed with a group of songs by the solidly English Ralph Vaughan Williams. 


First up was Cantique de Jean Racine, a gently lilting religious song written by Fauré when he was just 19. If the choir were a little timid at first they soon got into their stride, creating a rich sound as the piece built towards its climax. As was the case throughout the concert the orchestra sensitively balanced the singers, with the cello section adding notable depth in this rendition. 

A treat was to follow with a performance of Debussy’s Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane. Debussy and the harp are, of course, a winning combination, and the soloist here, Anna Wynne, brought out the full range of this beautiful and sometimes mysterious work, gliding through the triplets and occasional Japanese tones — playing delicately where necessary but always with a striking clarity of tone. Once again the orchestra provided fine support, coaxed along by conductor Roland.

English pastoral was introduced before the interval, along with baritone soloist Julian Empett and pianist Christopher Harris, who joined the choir and orchestra to perform Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs. In keeping with the previous French works the combination of Vaughan Williams’s music and poet George Herbert’s words create a sense of intimacy with the spiritual, even if we always feel we are in the English countryside as we listen.


For the choir these songs have their challenges, with some requiring the singers to enter only towards the end of the piece after a long solo; the final song, the upbeat Let all the world in every corner sing, is meanwhile harder to sing than it may sound, with some tricky rhythms to negotiate. Needless to say, the well-rehearsed singers rose to the task beautifully. Together, soloist, choir and orchestra created some spine-tingling moments, nowhere more so than at the end of the second song, I got me flowers, with its rousing conclusion. 


And so to the second half and the piece the choir will have focused on during their rehearsals since January — Fauré Requiem. All their hard work had clearly paid off, with attention to detail evident in the articulation of the words and endings of phrases. If that sounds a little dry, this performance was anything but. Faure’s interpretation of the requiem may lack the musical fireworks of those by other composers but that only puts more emphasis on the singers to pay attention to dynamics and phrasing, all of which was fully in evidence. The balance between the different parts of the choir and orchestra was particularly impressive, while the pacing was, for my taste, spot on throughout. 


All of this helped to create some truly moving moments, notably at the end of the Sanctus — when even the church bells of All Saints’ Church joined in! — and the re-entry of the opening bars of the Requiem at the end of the Agnus Dei. The baritone Julian Empett and soprano Helen Hayward, in the famous Pie Jesu, joined to admirable effect.

Singing in a choir like Brenchley’s creates a great sense of community and enjoyment — especially during a winter as dark and depressing as the one we have all just been through. If you can bring a level of performance such as this it makes all the effort worthwhile. Congratulations to Roland and everyone involved on a beautifully put together programme.

Andrew Peaple






25th Anniversary





There were two solo orchestral items which allowed the players to enjoy playing together.  Boccherini's Sinfonia in D major opened the concert and its three short and lively movements set the tone for an evening of high-quality music making.  The Purcell Chacony in G minor opened the second half of the concert and Roland Millar's consummate musicianship ensured that it plumbed the depths of emotion and colour contained in what, on the surface, could be seen as a series of repetitions of a simple bass line.

Haydn's St Nicholas Mass is one of his less well-known choral works; it is modest in scale but offers  musical challenges to both choir and soloists.  The four soloists, Rebecca Milford, Rebecca Hart - standing in for the indisposed Katie Macdonald - Dominic Walsh and Ian Beale not only excelled in their individual solos but provided stylish and well-balanced ensembles.  The choir was confident and secure in its part singing and brought an impressive range of dynamics and articulation to the different movements.  The orchestra, led by Rachel Hess, with continuo player Christopher Harris, enhanced the performance with careful and nicely judged playing.


Vivalid's Gloria has always been a favourite with many of the choir so it was appropriate that it should make an appearance in this very special evening.  It demands vitality and energy as well as sensitive and subtle shaping from both singers and players.  The rhythmic impetus of the faster movements was exciting if at times a little demanding and the more reflective moments with both choir and soprano soloists were beautifully managed, enhanced by well focused obligato oboe and cello solos.  The final chorus of Cum sancto spiritu had enormous impact and brought the evening to an incredibly happy conclusion.

Having been involved for some fifteen years with the choir, it was a real pleasure to be invited to this special evening.  I have no doubt that the choir with Roland Millar has a very bright future and I look forward to following their progress in the years to come.


Marjorie Ayling

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