St Albans Chamber choir a little under the weather

PERHAPS the blame can fairly be put on seasonal coughs and colds, but the unfortunate fact is that St Albans Chamber Choir s performance at St Albans Abbey on Saturday was not up to its usual high standard. While music director John Gibbons had designed

PERHAPS the blame can fairly be put on seasonal coughs and colds, but the unfortunate fact is that St Albans Chamber Choir's performance at St Albans Abbey on Saturday was not up to its usual high standard.

While music director John Gibbons had designed a fascinating programme packed with interesting and, in many cases, rarely-heard works, and the renowned Onyx Brass, who accompanied them, gave fine performances throughout, the choir simply did not come up to scratch.

The first problem came with the opening piece, a rare work by early Peruvian composer Juan P�rez Bocanegra where a choice had been made to sing it out of sight of the audience. Firstly the audience was not prepared for it to begin and secondly, the music was so soft that many had difficulty in hearing it.

Following on immediately was Giovanni Gabrieli's Buccinate which was the most disappointing work of the evening largely due to some pure sounds coming from some sopranos.


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One of the larger and more challenging works of the evening was The World is Charged with the Grandeur of God, a setting of three poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins written for the Aldeburgh Festival of 1969 by Sir Arthur Bliss.

With its unusual scoring for three trumpets and four trombones for the first and third poems and two flutes for the second, performances of the work are something of a rarity but the music is well worth listening to, particularly when provided by fine instrumentalists and the choir made up for their earlier problems with a good performance.

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They seemed more at ease with Heinrich Sch�tz's fine setting of Psalm 100 which followed an excellent performance of Petr Eben's Moto Ostinato from his organ suite Musica Dominicalis by Abbey Assistant Master of Music Tom Winpenny. Tom's performance was delicate and well metered.

Ending the first half the choir and Onyx Brass performed John Gibbons' own work Woefully Arrayed, a work originally composed for the choir of Bristol's Clifton Cathedral.

The work is intense, yet very appealing. In parts it is almost theatrical, yet overall it has tremendous spiritual depth.

Much of the second half was devoted to works of a more traditional feel, starting with the first 39 bars of Anton Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos, followed by Jacob Handl's setting of the Lord's Prayer.

Unfortunately there were more problems with the sopranos in Gabrieli's Exultet iam Angelica although the performances of J S Bach's O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht and the final work of the evening, John Rutter's Gloria made up for many of the earlier problems. Tom Winpenny's solo in the second half was a fine performance of Jehan Alain's Litanies

JOHN MANNING

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