Russian Lamentations, Ecstasy and Wine Glasses with the Vasari Singers

The Path of Purity

Vasari Singers will be taking you on a choral journey from the Lamentations of St Gregory of Narek through images of light and flame, to the stars and heaven.

22 March 2019, 7.30pm : St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London

Following their recording of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil in 2017, Vasari Singers have taken the natural next step to perform Alfred Schnittke’s towering Concerto for Choir. Composed in 1985, this is an extended setting of the tenth-century Armenian monk St Gregory of Narek’s Book of Lamentations or Prayer Book. A complex and wide-ranging work for choir, with most voice parts splitting into eight, this 40-minute piece is not often performed, but its extraordinary spiritual outpouring is recognised as one of the choral masterpieces of the 20th century.

Jeremy Backhouse explains: ‘This is a piece I have long wanted to perform with Vasari Singers. Schnittke, a natural successor to the musical and spiritual choral sound world of Rachmaninov, went on to develop a unique voice of his own, showcased at its zenith in the Concerto for Choir. Vasari Singers, with its rich range of versatile voices from stratospheric sopranos to below-the-stave basses (and everything in between) is perfectly suited to the challenges of this wonderful and virtuosic choral tour de force.’

Ecstatic outpourings can also be found in the music of Sir John Tavener’s Mother and Child, with stunning works by Jonathan Dove and Bob Chilcott adding impact and depth to the music of the first half.

The programme will also include Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ Stars, a choral piece accompanied by tuned wine glasses. Jeremy said ‘It has a been a multi-tasking challenge for the singers to turn their hand to playing wine glasses whilst singing this magical piece. The effect is of celestial waves of sounds, with cluster chords creating a truly heavenly and spacious feel. It really has to be experienced live.’

Alex Brougham, the choir’s Chair adds ‘Vasari Singers has a natural affinity with the beautiful music of Ēriks Ešenvalds and we are very excited to announce that we have commissioned a work from him to mark the choir’s 40th anniversary in 2020. We look forward to premiering the work next year, when we also hope to release a new recording with the commission as its centrepiece.’

Tickets are priced £20 (£12 for students and under 18s)

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