Live from London: Apollo5’s wide-ranging programme on the subject of love

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Live from London – Where All Roses Go: Apollo5 (Penelope Appleyard, Clare Stewart [sopranos], Josh Cooter, Oli Martin-Smith [tenors], Greg Link [bass]). VOCES8 Centre, London, 11.9.2020. (CC)

Apollo5 (c) Emma Saunders

Byrd – ‘Vigilate. Ne irascaris, Domine’
Guerrero – ‘Veni, Domine’
Josquin – ‘Gaude Virgo’
Tallis – Nine Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter
Paul Smith‘For Lost Innocence’
Whitacre – ‘This Marriage’
Taylor Davis‘Music When Soft Voices Die’
Michael McGlynn‘Where all roses go’
Marvell – Mayfair Songs: ‘These Foolish Things’
Elton John (arr. Morgan)‘Your Song’
The Beatles (arr. Morgan) – ‘Eleanor Rigby’
Vince Clarke‘Only You’

(Encore) Kern‘The way you look tonight’

The latest, and seventh, concert in the Live from London is the decade-old group Apollo 5, itself also based at the VOCES8 Centre. Apollo was the Greek God of music – nothing, here, to do with moon landings, as the introductory video was keen to point out. Two sopranos, two tenors and a bass (with some flexibility of a soprano going to mezzo and a tenor moving into the baritone/bass area) is the line-up. Like VOCES8, the intent is to inspire people through music in a variety of ways, from concerts through workshops and beyond.

The repertoire of this concert features on their already available EP Where All Roses Go, and their forthcoming album.

A wide-ranging programme on the subject of love began with the slowly unfolding lines of William Byrd’s ‘Vigilate’, the five voices creating a radiant sense of transparency. Apollo5’s sound is light, as if filled with air, warming with the fuller textures of Byrd’s ‘Ne irascaris, Domine’, the latter raising itself to remarkable levels of intensity. Fabulous programming to have that intensity taken further with the slowly shifting, mystical textures of Francisco Guerrero’s ‘Veni, Domine’. At times in the Guerrero, it was as if shafts of light through a cathedral window illuminated the music’s surface as the harmonies became more radiant. The sheer rhythmic life of Josquin’s ‘Gaude Virgo’ acted as the perfect counterbalance.

The Tallis included the piece that Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis is based on. Fascinating to hear the original; and to hear Tallis in juxtaposition with the beautifully-crafted music of Paul Smith (of the VOCES8 Foundation) to a text by W.H. Auden, with its predilection for open-fifth phrase endings and poignant dissonance (perfectly in tune here, with chords carefully balanced). A lovely solo from bass Greg Link, too.

The exquisite four-voice ‘This Marriage’ by Eric Whitacre glowed with internal, prayer-like hope; again, the transparency of the sound that seems to be an Apollo5 characteristic paid huge dividends. American composer Taylor Davis’s setting of ‘Music When Soft Voices Die’ finds a voice that is at once contemporary and ancient – the music seems to speak to a part of us that responds to plainsong, and yet still finds relevance today.

To a text by Francis Ledwidge, Dublin composer Michael McGlynn’s ‘Where all roses go’ features a beautiful solo for tenor, here sung by the silky-smooth tenor of Josh Cooter (superb diction, too).

The final set was of more popular material. Like VOCES8, when this group lets their hair down the result is magic. Something of the slickness of The King’s Singers to ‘These Foolish Things’, from the co-called Mayfair Collection. Interesting to hear Elton’s John’s ‘Your Song’ sung so slowly, and to hear that lovely staccato vocal accompaniment in ‘Eleanor Rigby’; fabulous to hear more of VOCES8’s Blake Morgan’s arrangements here. Vince Clarke’s ‘Only You’ (written while a member of Depeche Mode but recorded by his duo, Yazoo) was the final offering, as tight as can be. One encore: a spectacularly clever version of Jerome Kern’s ‘The way you look tonight’.

A further EP is due out in November, with the full album coming out on Valentine’s Day next year.

Colin Clarke

For more about Live from London click here.

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