In Concerts for Colyton on Saturday, March 12, in St Andrew’s Church, a sizeable audience listened intently to Wells Cathedral Chamber Choir, with their conductor, Nigel Perrin.

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The programme began with an electrifying All creatures now are merry-minded - the most arresting first moments of a concert that I can remember and this feeling of commitment and energy was there in everything the singers did. Three more madrigals followed. The Silver Swan unfolded beautifully and Weep, O mine eyes had its ravishingly melting cadences skilfully managed. Morley’s Fire, fire had a suitably energetic performance.

Monteverdi’s Adoramus te, Christe followed, with specially glowing chords.

Then came two pieces written by members of the choir. Caspar Green’s In manus tuis produced skilful, modern, very musical choral writing. The composer, normally in the choir, could not be present, as he was on his way from receiving his award of the Associate of the Royal College of Organists Diploma. Owain Park’s Time was, a well-constructed piece, contained interesting harmonic moves which brought a real atmosphere. These two pieces, each sung confidently, leaving us happy to hear more of these two young men.

Vaughan Williams set Three Shakespeare Songs in 1951, at the age of 79. Those in the know realise how difficult they are, taxing even for professional choirs, but the Wells singers tackled them with great confidence and style: the challenging changes of harmony worried them not at all.

In the second half, we heard two movements from Giles Swayne’s Missa Tiburtina. The composer (born in Hertfordshire in 1946) himself said: “Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to earth.” The piece is a prayer to sanity in a world governed by so much greed. He started to compose the piece in Tivoli in 1955, and the anguish and anger are evident from the beginning. The angular vocal lines and the stabbing interjections present a feeling of challenge to us all, and the performance showed all this clearly and effectively.

Then came Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat. Nigel Perrin’s brief introduction helpfully called our attention to the three-note chord (triad) to which the piece kept referring every few bars. Another convincing performance.

The Five Negro Spirituals from Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time (clever programming, with tunes that we all knew at the end of the evening) produced a rich contrast of styles, and the encore was a Swingle-type version of part of the Magic Flute overture, sung with great verve.

It’s heart-warming to be with young people performing with such skill. Thanks to them and to conductor Nigel, for another most enjoyable evening.

William Llewellyn

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