Review: East meets West concert on 11 July 2015 by Ian Schofield

The Renaissance Choir and conductor Peter Gambie, recently awarded ‘Best Classical Music Act’ by Portsmouth News, justified this accolade in Saturday’s concert at The Church of the Holy Spirit.  Purity of sound and an excellent blend of voices were to the fore in an enterprising programme ranging from music by Byrd, to works by the young American, Carson Cooman.  The former’s ‘Ne Irascaris’ was performed by the choir spaced around the audience – producing a magical effect as various melodic strands echoed across the church.  Cooman’s ‘New World Carols’  were musically challenging, but delivered convincingly and with great confidence.  Jonathan Dove’s rhythmically demanding ‘Seek Him that Maketh’ had a brief loss of ensemble during one of its quicker sections, but the dissonant writing and frequent tempo changes were well handled.

The second part of the programme consisted of movements from Rachmaninov’s Vespers.  Performed in Russian, and with many vocal divisions, these were given a stylish, well-prepared interpretation, featuring a wide range of dynamics and tonal colours.  Special mention should be made of the choir’s impressive bass line.

Organist Mark Dancer was the sensitive accompanist, whose digital dexterity was demonstrated in two solo items: Britton’s quirky variations on ‘I Got Rhythm’ and an Andante by Tchaikovsky.