An Exploration of Time with the Rodolfus Choir

31/07/2014

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Three Choirs Festival (6)-  Tavener, Tallis, Bach, Jackson, Parry, Ley, Cruft, Pärt, Victoria, Howells, Kodály, Time and its Passing: The Rodolfus Choir / Ralph Allwood (conductor), St George’s Church, Barborne, Worcester, 30.7.2014 (RJ)

John Tavener: O, do not move
Thomas Tallis: Thou wast, O God
Bach: Et incarnatus est (Mass in B minor)
Gabriel Jackson: To Morning
Tallis: Miserere nostri
C Hubert H Parry: There is an old belief
Henry Ley: A prayer of King Henry VI
Adrian Cruft: These hours
Arvo Pärt: …. which was the son of ……
Parry: Music, when soft voices die
Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tavener: Song for Athene
Parry: Let me know mine end
Bach: Crucifixus (Mass in B minor)
Herbert Howells: Take him, earth, for cherishing
Zoltan Kodály: Evening Song

After mentioning the name of Ralph Allwood a few days ago in a  review of the International A Capella School, I was surprised and delighted to see the man himself in action at the Three Choirs Festival. The Rodolfus choir is made up of the most outstanding alumni of his Eton Choral Courses.

This a capella concert took place not in Worcester Cathedral itself but in a late Victorian Church in the city designed by Sir Aston Webb, better known as the architect of Admiralty Arch and the V & A Museum in London as well as Birmingham University.  A red brick building but beautifully spacious the church boasts excellent acoustics making it ideal for this concert.

The programme set out to explore the nature of time in sound and music. Perhaps the spatial dimension should have been added, because of the imaginative use the choir made of the interior of the building. They sang the first Tavener piece at the back of the church, the words seeming to float in on the air, before surrounding the audience for Tallis’s Thou wast God and thou wast blest.  The words may be unfamiliar but this is in fact the Tallis theme Vaughan Williams used in his famous Fantasy, and opportunities to hear the original hymn set in Phrygian mode occur surprisingly rarely. Later the choir sang with ease his more complex Miserere nostri for seven voices with intricate counterpoint – another timeless work.

Tavener is much in favour this year, when he should have been celebrating his 70th birthday, so there was no excuse not to include a second work of his in this morning concert – his Hymn to Athene, sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. The texts are by an Orthodox nun, Mother Thekla, and inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Orthodox liturgy.  The first text, May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, and each of the following ones are preceded by monophonic Alleluias sung by the men, while to add to the sense of mystery and otherworldliness a continuous drone underlies. This immaculately performed work made a profound impression on the listeners.

I did not enjoy the Bach excerpts as much as I should have done, because the previous afternoon I had heard the whole Mass with all the trimmings in the Cathedral. However, the inclusion of three works by Parry, all sung with great sincerity, were well worth turning up for. There is an old belief looks forward to meeting old friends in the afterlife and sounded welcoming and reassuring, while his setting of Shelley’s Music when soft voices die had an aura of calm and sweetness. But the best was yet to come: the eight part Lord let me know mine end in a powerful and emotional performance.

Allwood, who provided pertinent introductions to the works retains a good sense of the humour. I was expecting the Arvo Pärt work to be profoundly spiritual, but it turned out to be a setting of Christ’s genealogy (in reverse) from St Luke’s Gospel – an exploration of pitch and dynamics rather than theology! He also programmed Cage’s 4’33”, which is not a work at all, of course, but an excuse for a period of silence.  However, I will forgive him such indulgences after such an uplifting performance of Parry’s Take him, earth, for cherishing composed in response to President Kennedy’s assassination. This was a jewel of a concert in a jewel of a church.

Roger Jones

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • NEW! Glyndebourne 2020 cancelled and looking to the future __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Philadelphia announces Digital Festival O __________________________________
  • NEW! The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Southbank Centre in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tamara Rojo’s new Raymonda and ENB in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! An update about the 2020 Salzburg Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war – and when will we all meet again? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Perfect Pianists at the BBC: education and entertainment __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • SOME GOOD NEWS! Extraordinary generosity of the Longborough Festival Opera audience __________________________________
  • NEW! Remembering Margaret Rutherford: murder on and off screen __________________________________
  • Remembering George London’s life and legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth __________________________________
  • PIANIST LOUIS LORTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month