Review of “European Sacred Music” and informal feedback

A movement from Rachmaninov’s ‘Vespers’, sung from the distance, provided a magical opening to the Renaissance Choir’s summer concert. Entitled ‘European Sacred Music’, their programme ranged from works by Lassus to Poulenc.

The choir’s renowned ‘blend of sound’, was very much in evidence in two motets by Bruckner. The particularly slow tempo of ‘Os Justi’ filled the resonant Holy Spirit Church with cascades of suspensions, and his eight-part ‘Ave Maria’ displayed excellent tonal control over a wide dynamic range.

For Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ the singers were split into two groups antiphonally, with a group of four solo voices placed afar. The solo voice of Tim Boxall was instrumental in maintaining pitch here, and Catherine O’Leary soared effortlessly to three notorious high Cs.

Karen Kingsley was the sympathetic, stylish accompanist for Faure’s ‘Cantique’ and later, Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’. Her performance of Chopin’s ‘Berceuse Op.57’ was played with great musicality and maintained clarity in the highly ornamented melody, despite the church’s resonant acoustic.

Three motets in the second part of the concert were sung with the choir standing in a large, widely spaced circle, around the audience. It is easy, when performing this way, for individual voices to ‘stand out’, but their sound remained remarkably well-blended.

The concert concluded with a fine performance of Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’, with Susan Yarnell as the outstanding soprano soloist. I particularly enjoyed the antiphonal effects in ‘Laudamus Te’. Tempi, with the exception of a very lively ‘Domine Fili’, were well chosen, and the stillness of the closing bars providing a fitting conclusion to this excellent concert.

Ian Schofield

And some informal feedback:

“Aren’t the soloists wonderful, just like angels!”

“We were privileged to see your concert at the Church of the Holy Spirit yesterday evening – it was perfection personified. You provided a faultless and thoroughly enjoyable evening, thank you!”

“A privilege to be in the audience tonight. A beautiful sound and what wonderful solo work in the Allegri and Poulenc! I noticed a new style of singing the Poulenc Salve Regina. Very smooth and flowing, well done”.

“It was, as ever, a beautiful evening of music. The choice of music was excellent, but it’s oh, so difficult not to join in with all the pieces I know so well. We always come away feeling inspired, refreshed and most appreciative of those lovely voices. Congratulations to all.”