Purcell School choir astounds at St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Abbey Cathedral

St Albans Abbey Cathedral - Credit: Archant

When you take around 170 highly talented young musicians you would expect to have some fine music.

But the standard presented by the choirs and orchestras of the Purcell School at their annual concert in St Albans Cathedral last week far outstripped expectation.

Throughout the concert the standard was outstanding and in some areas it was exceptional.

Brass and percussion featured strongly in the opening work of the concert, Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, an ideal piece to introduce the school’s orchestra, on this occasion conducted by Kevin Hathway.

Although little known, the works of 20th century French composer Pierre Villette are an absolute delight and the performance of three of his religious motets by the school’s chamber choir conducted by head master David Thomas was a highlight.


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The standard of performance in the three works was as high as any professional choir as was that of the string orchestra conducted by Charles Sewart in their performance of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

But the highlight of the evening was the performance by the school’s orchestra and choir of Handel’s Coronation anthem Zadok the Priest followed by Mozart’s Coronation Mass.

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One of the features of Purcell School concerts at St Albans Cathedral is that young recently-qualified singers are engaged as soloists and this year those joining the choir and orchestra were soprano Ruth McElvanney, alto Nancy Cole, tenor Chris Lombard and bass Jake Muffett. It was conducted by Edward Longstaff with John Longstaff at the organ.

The performance of both works showed the excellent performing ability of the school’s students. Although lacking in the complexity of some of Mozart’s later works, the mass is elegant and very melodic. All those taking part combined to produce a performance of a quality which would have done credit to any fully professional group.

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