City of Canterbury Chamber Choir at the 2009 Presteigne Festival
Cecilia McDowall's Laudate, characterised by lively rhythms and a Spanish-influenced solo part for mezzo-soprano (the lustrously appealing Catherine King) fell even more comfortably on the ear in a commendably delivered performance by the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir, as did their dramatically-charged account of Haydn's Mass in time of War.
David Hart, 1 September 2009, The Birmingham Post
City of Canterbury Chamber Choir at the 2007 Presteigne Festival
Other agreeable Presteigne memories? The vim and polish of the ad hoc Presteigne Festival Orchestra, drawn from students. Young voices to watch out for, such as Charlotte Mobbs and Lucie Spickova, bouncing through a Haydn mass with the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir. Cecilia McDowall's moving motet Ave Maris Stella, written in 9/11's shadow. And the sun, every day.
Geoff Brown, The Times, 29 August 2007
The Presteigne Festival has a unique capacity for bringing composers, critics and a trusting audience together, and Saturday's full-house evening concert was a triumphant example of how irresistibly it reaches out to everyone.
Given in memory of Joan Hughes, a stalwart festival presence, it brought more evocative Sculthorpe, the premiere of Hilary Tann's Shakkei for oboe and orchestra, a convincing meeting of soundworlds and cultures, with soloist Virginia Shaw shaping a beautifully produced line, and more mouthwatering Haydn in the Missa Sancti Nicolai.
But it was Cecilia McDowall's Ave Maris Stella, a favourite of Joan's, which set the seal, the stylish City of Canterbury Chamber Choir, soprano Charlotte Mobbs, and the PFO responding under Vass's supple direction to all the music's warmth of heart.
Christopher Morley, The Birmingham Post, 28 August 2007
City of Canterbury Chamber Choir at the 2005 Presteigne Festival
'Among the many admirable qualities of this annual feast is its fearlessness in programming non-mainstream late 20th- and early 21st-century works, none of them world premieres, thus taking audiences into unfamiliar territory without the critic-luring prestige of a first performance. Thanks to the unfailingly acute ear of Artistic Director George Vass for pieces uniting impeccable quality with engaging accessibility, the results are always magical.'
'Special mention must be made of an evening concert by the excellent Presteigne Festival Orchestra and Canterbury Chamber Choir under Vass featuring impressively cogent performances of Tippett's Little Music for strings, Alan Rawsthorne's alluringly Arcadian Concertante Pastorale and culminating in a performance of Cecilia McDowall's graceful Magnificat. This reflective work, adorned with deft, Baroque flourishes, has already been recorded by the choir, soloists and conductor (Dutton CDLX7146) and their assured singing radiated with the confidence of a team with this elegant choral piece in their blood.'
Paul Conway, Tempo, January 2006
'Midway through the Festival, Saturday evening's concert showed the range of Vass's programming and the tight effectiveness of his rehearsing, covering featured contemporary and centenary composers and a titan of a Baroque piece huge in its demands.'
'This was Handel's mighty Dixit Dominus, written when the still youthful composer expected his choristers to sing like zippy instrumentalists, demands fulfilled triumphantly by Vass's enthusiastic Canterbury Chamber Choir, the PFO bright and bouncy in a boldly swift yet sonorous performance.'
Christopher Morley, Musical Opinion, November 2005