Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace), a Portsmouth Festivities concert last Thursday at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, supporting the D-Day Museum trust, promised music from across the Allied forces countries along with Germany.
Indeed it did – a veritable feast. The Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the choirs of Portsmouth Cathedral and the Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir offered us a wonderful evening of music from the instantly powerful Fanfare for the Common Man (Copland) to the superbly disciplined Grammar School’s singing of Paul Mealor’s, Peace.
David Price, Director of Music at Portsmouth Cathedral, demonstrated his virtuosic mastery of the organ in an interesting interpretation of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue, featuring the wide variety of ‘colours’ of the organ and also the supreme power of the instrument.
Steve Tanner, conducting the large orchestra in Wagner’s Rienzi Overture enlightened the audience with the atmospheric, dark, foreboding tones of the cellos and basses in the opening, leading to the majestic and stirring main theme. For me, the highlight of the evening was the excerpt from Saint-Saens, Organ Symphony. The slow movement’s gentle, warm and rich string opening, supported by a tight woodwind section along with the warmth and depth of the organ, gave a real atmosphere, crowned by the powerful last movement which built to a thrilling conclusion.
Both sections of the concert concluded with the music of Hubert Parry, eminently suitable for the evening. The first half concluding with his Blest Pair of Sirens. As the combined forces sang and played, the sun streamed in the cathedral windows which added to the spine-tingling sound filling every corner of the building.
The concert, concluding with Philip Stopford’s In my Father’s House, featuring the cathedral choirs and orchestra, was an unfamiliar work but beautiful to listen to. Finally, with the combined forces and the packed cathedral singing Parry’s Jerusalem, it was indeed something special. The long, enthusiastic applause was justly deserved. What musical talent we have in Portsmouth!