Hiawatha – Charming Performance at Conisborough

November 1921

Mexborough, and Swinton Times, November 12


Charming Performance at Conisborough.

Delightful evening with the Choral Society.

Songs of love and songs of longing,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time, a past month gaily,
And our guests be more contented

That was the essence of the Conisborough Choral Society starts on Wednesday night, when “Hiawatha” was sung in the Globe Picture Palace, and the task was nobly performed.

To a young society. It was quite a considerable adventure, and if they had not been supported by real talent as well as real enthusiasm, they would not have come so triumphantly off.

As it was, a large audience was assembled on the face of this Society´s one previous public performance, a critical, experienced audience, prepared to exercise judgement as well as charity.

The Society, I think, answered the test very well, and need have no anxiety about future public patronage. The audience were gripped and held, and would cheerfully have stayed to hear the work out. I do not know what considerations led the society to limit the performance to the two conventional numbers, the “Wedding Feast” and the “Death of Minnehaha,” but if their “Hiawatha” is to be repeated in the district, and I hope it will be, I think I shall not be alone in desiring this accomplished choir to give us Coleridge Taylor to the last bar.

“Hiawatha” is often attempted by choral societies. The dreamy Indian legend is well-known. Longfellow’s unrhymed trochaic meter as a melody and a majesty of itself, and when dressed in the glittering music of Coleridge Taylor, its appeal is as irresistible and inescapable at the hundreds time of hearing as at the first.

It is one of the most refreshing of all cantatas to rehearse, as the Conisborough Choral Society must have found. If it is nicely performed it cannot fail to move the average Yorkshire concert audience to enthusiast, and that was what happened at Conisborough on Wednesday night. In passing, I may say that the Choral Society were favoured with an audience of the type which knows when not to applaud.

Of the two sections, the second was a most capably performed, the level of the singing being more uniformly high and artistic. This choir is by no means composed of melancholy people, but it is a choir which seems to have a dramatic instinct for sadness.

The dance ofPau Pot Keawiswas clearly done but there was some real refinement of imagination in the bleak picture of the cold and cruel winter, the Earth’s sick and famished, the wolfish hunger of the air, the deadly sorrow of Hiawatha.

The audience were considerable glee provided with the words, even the unfamiliar here might have followed the story without due strain. Although I was most impressed with the choir on what I might call its “andante” side, yet there was a good deal of charm in the light, quick passages. The introduction of Iagoo, the great boaster, was brightly and merrily done.

The orchestra, composed of some 15 of the most capable and experienced amateurs in the district, led by Mr H.H.Sharp, provided a delightful accompaniment, a gentle rippling tide (with occasional billows) on which the theme was carried forward from phase to phase.

It was expert accompanying, nice the bender, and perfectly moderated, so that the choir were always riding on it and never plunging about in it. The tone could hardly have been improved, set by the introduction of a little wood wind. The cello town, which is a staple of this work, was very effectively brought out.

Now, for all these merits chief credit goes by general consent, I think, to Mr W.A.Twelves, the conductor, a gentleman who is a valued asset to a district which is better furnished with musical enthusiasm than with musicianship.

I congratulate Mr Twelves on his labours in this and other musical enterprises. The performance could not have been more carefully or anxiously prepared, and thoroughness of rehearsal was evidenced in the smooth nurse and serenity with which it was conducted and controlled.

“Hiawatha” or such part of it as was given on this occasion is predominantly a choral work, but the contribution of the principals were important, and as transpired pleasing.

The “star” tenor song, “Onaway! Awake,” was given with passion and sweetness by Mr Percy Hallet and the soprano and baritone Miss Parker Machon, Sheffield and Mr W.Welling, of Doncaster, sang with charm and delicate feeling.

The sum of it all is that the Conisborough Choral Society have assured support for any performance that they are ready to undertake. For their efforts on Wednesday night, we are as grateful to them and their orchestral allies as no doubt they are to Mr Twelves.

I learned the satisfaction that they are already preparing works of the quality of Stanford’s “Revenge” and Cliffe´s “Old to the North East Wind” for production this season.

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