‘Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.’ William Byrd
Lutterworth and District Choral Society Registered Charity number 1048089
An Evening of Baroque Music
9 April 2011
An Evening of Baroque Music, on 9th April 2011, promised a programme of varied choral and instrumental delights, and delivered in every way. The venue, St Mary’s Church in Lutterworth was suitably imposing, and offered a fine acoustic and visual setting for the concert.
The evening began with Henry Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art, the royal ode he composed for Queen Mary's birthday in 1694. In the text, by the poet Nahum Tate, the soloists and choir exhorted a succession of musical instruments to praise the Queen's virtues. The choral singing was highly accomplished, and the mood of joyful celebration was maintained throughout. Soprano soloists Patricia Douglas and Clare Robertson, contralto Kathryn Cook and baritone Robert Clarke provided virtuoso solo performances that lifted the spirits.
In the instrumental passages that punctuate the vocal sections, the orchestra is clearly fulfilling this royal command, and the chamber ensemble – an assured string section, augmented by some fine instrumental soloists and underpinned by vibrant bass and continuo playing – clearly took the poet at his word. Their confident playing was integral to the success of the piece.
In between sections, narrator Julian Hargreaves read from the Diaries of Samuel Pepys, offering the celebrated diarist’s views – sensitive, whimsical and amusing – on the varied joys of music. These greatly contributed to the audience’s overall enjoyment of the work.
Organist John Lenton then performed several solo pieces by Baroque composers – voluntaries by Johann Pepusch and Thomas Thorley, a fine chorale prelude by J.S.Bach, followed by Purcell’s lively and vigorous Martial Air and Almond. He was joined by trumpeter Andy MacFarlane for the famous trumpet tune from Marc-
Finally came Allegri’s Miserere mei Deus, in which the choir performed at the front of the church, their singing interspersed with, and joined by, the four soloists at the rear. The acoustic of the church was thus allowed to add its own character and bring an extra dimension to the performance, which was quite simply sublime. The contrast between the choral singing and that of the soloists – including the soaring high soprano adornments originally added by the singers of the Sistine Chapel – was enhanced by this sense of space. When the two forces joined, the emotional and spiritual impact was powerful. It was a heart-
After the interval, a single work – the Gloria in D – rounded off the evening. This was another ensemble performance, with choir, soloists and chamber players ‘lifting the roof’ in a joyful rendition of Vivaldi’s hymn of praise. The varied characters of the different sections were clearly and vibrantly brought to life by all the performers, and the uplifting conclusion of the work brought the evening to a triumphant close. The applause that followed was heartfelt and well-
The evening’s programme was well-
This was a performance, and a concert, that will stay with me for a long time.
Reviewer Howard McDermott