An 'Exhilarating and Memorable' Performance

Janet Obi-Keller reviews The Addison Singers' spring concert

Other local events

It All Began With A Performance of Ave Maris Stella - composer Cecilia McDowall on her work with The Addison Singers


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The Addison Singers' spring concert took place on Saturday the 29th of March at St. Michael’s & All Angels Church under the direction of David Wordsworth.

The first half of the programme featured works by contemporary composers. Two of the featured composers attended the evening’s performance which made the event even more significant. Not only was the choice of programme inventive and imaginative, the performance was exhilarating and memorable.

The Bernardi Chamber Orchestra (leader Andrew Bernardi) were superb and in fine form. Vocal soloists Nicola Wydenbach (Soprano), Claire Turner (Mezzo Soprano), Eamonn Mulhall (tenor) and Benjamin Seifert (baritone), were exceptional, adding to the outstanding level of performance.

Touch Light (2005) by Michael Berkeley, the first piece of the programme, was a rather sombre and lyrical work with a rather thought provoking text set by the composer. As cited in the programme notes, Berkeley was inspired by moments of some of his favourite arias and duets such as Dido’s Lament (Purcell) and the final duet from The Coronation of Poppea (Monteverdi). The intelligent reference to a compositional form based on Baroque Opera and the dramatic and almost lugubrious style was well captured in this piece for soprano, mezzo and strings.

The Chamber Choir communicated a refined level of clarity and transparency in Howard Skempton’s Three Motets (2007). The lush harmonic texture was supported by the melodic shape as the lines intertwined gracefully. Skempton commented on the excellent direction and good tempi.

Nunc Dimitis (1915) by Gustav Holst, fell into complete neglect as the manuscript was temporarily lost. The opening section, set in a spellbound mood on a pianissimo dynamic, was beautifully conveyed. The more joyful central section and affirmative close were delivered with energy and an intelligent sense of command.

Three Latin Motets (2004), by Cecilia McDowall, are set to chosen texts addressed to the Virgin Mary. The contrasts ranging from expressive and lyrical to intimate and dramatic revealed the inner fabric of the contrapuntal lines and the harmonic design. The Chamber Choir truly revealed the individual style of the composer. There was great attention to detail, particularly in the last Motet (‘Regina Caeli’) where the Alleluia’s felt like suspended and isolated moments inserted into the musical text.

The first part of the concert ended with Joby Talbot’s Ave Verum Corpus (2006). The range of vocal and string effects were vividly interpreted. The dissonance particularly on the words Misere Nobis felt nostalgically unsettling. The skilful dialogue between the Oratorio Choir and the orchestra facilitated a dynamic delivery of the climactic ending, imbued with dissonance that then resolves at the end of the piece.

Mozart’s Requiem (1791), the final work, was brilliantly performed. The essence of Mozart’s final work was beautifully captured as the performance was gripping and exhilarating! Having opted to perform the Maunder version of the Requiem and in keeping true to the spirit of Mozart’s final work, the attention to phrasing, choice of tempi and sense of space between movements were intelligently directed. The enthusiasm and energy of the performance was electrifying! I left the Church wanting to hear it again as the choice of music and performance left me truly inspired.

Janet Obi-Keller ( Head of Music @ City Lit.)

April 7, 2008