Review: Cantores Chamber Choir, Highnam Parish Church
Cantores Chamber Choir, Highnam Parish Church
In their programme entitled Mystical Masterpieces Cantores and their conductor John Holloway explored how the spiritual convictions of composers from different traditions permeate their music,
Their starting point was British composer John Tavener whose preoccupation with Eastern Orthodox religion has produced a very distinctive musical idiom. Use of St Basil's ancient liturgy in his Hymn to the Mother of God ccontributed to its sense of mystery with the choir split into two groups singing three beats apart. The three verse Hymn on the Death of the Virgin also made an impact by virtue of its apparent simplicity.
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Herbert Howells' Psalm Prelude No 1, played by David Whitehead on the church's magnificent sounding organ, led on to the Estonian Orthodox tradition as represented by Arvo Pärt's Latin Magnificat Here again the spirituality was expressed with simplicity and restraint. The sequence beginning "He has shown strength with his arm" was more robust and positive after which the music reverted to a more contemplative and mystical state.
The organ was given a prominent role in Zoltán Kodály's setting of the Latin hymn Pange Lingua.. The was a freshness about the performance of music rooted in the Hungarian folk tradition. Reference to the Last Supper created a sense of awe followed by a prayerful hymn, Verbum Caro.
The major work of the evening, Rheinberger's Mass in E flat, belonged to the more familiar German Romantic tradition and the heart could not fail to be uplifted by the fervour of the opening Kyrie. Movements from the composer's organ sonatas played between section of the mass added to the overall effect, with a wide range of expression from the singers surmounted by an unwavering spirituality.
Cantores deserve congratulations both for the originality of their programming and faultless technique.