HOLIDAY visitors and locals were transported to Italy by the operatic concert that was part of the Hawkshead Summer Music series, writes MARY HARKNESS. Furness Bach Choir under the baton of their young inspirational Italian conductor Marco Bellasi provided an evening of truly Italian delicacies and delights. Starting with the anti-pasti of choruses commencing with a heart felt interpretation of Verdi's Chorus of The Scottish Refugees from Macbeth, Leoncavallo's The Bell Chorus from Pagliacci, and three other delicious Verdi choruses, the first half reached a exhilarating climax with the Triumphal Scene from Aida. The main course pasta was a substantial and moving delivery of key excerpts from Verdi's La Traviata.

What distinguished the interpretation from the average was the precise respect for tempi, dynamics, balance and the obvious energy and full engagement of every single member of the choir. Marco's supreme mastery of the music and his adoration of the operatic form, and in particular Verdi, was evident to us all as we sat in rapture and amazement at the rendition before us of grand opera sung with excellent Italian, perfect intonation, dramatic acting and emotional commitment.

Bellasi's background as a small boy often accompanying his mother (an opera singer) to La Scala in Milan for long rehearsals was obvious. He has absorbed music into his very bones which he communicates to the choir with every beat.

The soloists were outstanding. Members of this very talented choir have some of the best soloist singers in the area in Naomi Marczak (Violetta), James Marczak (Alfredo) and John Brice (Alfredo's father) with Cathy Styles and Ron Eadington both making smaller, but equally outstanding, contributions. The gifted and consistently accurate and sensitive piano accompaniment from Alex Phillips Yates provided a strong connecting thread throughout the performance. It is a joy to hear singing of such standard and a tribute to their hard work and coaching from Marco....himself a noted baritone, professional violinist as well as prizewinning conductor.

This first class convert was happening in a small Lakeland church, on a Tuesday night.....with eyes shut one could believe one was in Italy. The passion, energy and commitment to the music was a great credit to the choir and Marco. It is unusual to hear amateur choral music of such a high standard sung with such confidence and pure enjoyment. The evening earned sustained applause, whistles and bangs from the amazed and inspired audience. Very well done indeed.