Past Concerts

Between Earth & Heaven

Sunday 12 May 2013, 7.30pm
St Dunstan’s Church, Mayfield, East Sussex

Mayfield Festival Choir conducted by Jeremy Summerly with the Royal Academy Consort (leader Lukas Hank), harpist Heather Wrighton and soloists Miranda Johnson and Martin Johnson.

  • Fauré: Requiem
  • Britten: Ceremony of Carols
  • Trad: Angelus ad virginem
  • Dufay: Gloira ad modum tubae
  • Mozart: Ave verum corpus

Chaucer’s 14th-century clerk was accustomed to sing the Angelus ad virginem to his own accompaniment in his Oxford lodgings. The young Dufay composed his attention-seeking Gloria in the manner of a trumpet for a civic function in early-15th century Rimini. Mozart penned his Ave verum corpus in 1791, in the last few months of his life, while trying to seek permanent and secure employment. Fauré wrote his Requiem in 1888, when he was organist of the society church of La Madeleine in Paris’s fashionable 8th arrondissement. And Britten compiled his Ceremony of Carols during World War II, while sailing across the Atlantic under constant threat of submarine attack.

A Swedish cargo ship, a French salon, an Austrian apartment, an Italian market square, and an English attic are all relevant locations to the music in this programme. But all of these works are ultimately designed to be heard in church. They deal variously with proclamation, devotion, nurture, and loss. This concert celebrates the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth as well as the 125th anniversary of the first performance of Fauré’s iconicRequiem, and weaves a celebratory narrative around the relationship between birth and death, and between earth and heaven.

Review

For their 2013 spring concert, the Mayfield Festival Choir performed a selection of works entitled ‘Between Earth and Heaven’. It was an evening dedicated to the memory of Michael Gough Matthews who died last month. Michael, a former director of the Royal College of Music, had been a Mayfield resident for a number of years and Artistic Director of the Mayfield Festival.

The choir started the evening with Angelus ad Virginem, a popular medieval carol, with a catchy melody and strong rhythm – ideal for the choir’s innovative procession from opposite sides of the church to their seats. This was followed by Gloria ad Modum Tubae by Guillaume Dufay, which provided a rousing fanfare and gave the choir the opportunity to express the exuberance intended by the composer, which they did with obvious enjoyment! Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus demonstrated some beautifully quiet, sustained singing from the choir, highlighting the serenity of the music. The first half concluded with A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten, bringing together soprano and baritone soloists, a husband and wife duo, Miranda and Martin Johnson and a harp solo by Heather Wrighton.

The second part of the concert was the Fauré Requiem which used the work’s original instrumentation, sensitively played by the Royal Academy Consort. This demonstrated the full range of the choir’s developing abilities. The baritone and soprano soloists were polished and effective in their contributions, especially the soprano who delivered an exquisite Pie Jesu, ably supported by Andrew Benians on the organ. The evening was brought to a delicate and moving conclusion by the choir, the sopranos being particularly effective in the final movement, In Paradisum.

This is a choir rejuvenated – they have demonstrated a belief and a confidence in their recent performances which is a credit to Jeremy Summerly, conductor and Festival director, whose influence is evident in the quality of the choral singing – the clarity of diction, and variety of dynamics ranging from a delicate simmering pianissimo to a full blown rousing fortissimo. On the strength of this concert we look forward to their November performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

James Anderson

 

Live CD recording

This concert was recorded live by professional recording engineers from Tŷ Cerdd, Cardiff
»Click here to purchase copies of the CD.

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