Review of “European Sacred Music” concert by The Renaissance Choir

A movement from Rachmaninov’s ‘Vespers’, sung from the distance, provided a magical opening to the Renaissance Choir’s summer concert. Entitled ‘European Sacred Music’, their programme ranged from works by Lasso to Poulenc.

The choir’s renowned ‘blend of sound’, was very much in evidence in two motets by Bruckner. The particularly slow tempo of ‘Os Justi’ filled the resonant Holy Spirit Church with cascades of suspensions, and his eight-part ‘Ave Maria’ displayed excellent tonal control over a wide dynamic range.

For Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ the singers were split into two groups antiphonally, with a group of four solo voices placed afar. The solo voice of Tim Boxall was instrumental in maintaining pitch here, and Catherine O’Leary soared effortlessly to three notorious high Cs.

Karen Kingsley was the sympathetic, stylish accompanist for Faure’s ‘Cantique’ and later, Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’. Her performance of Chopin’s ‘Berceuse Op.57’ was played with great musicality and maintained clarity in the highly ornamented melody, despite the church’s resonant acoustic.

Three motets in the second part of the concert were sung with the choir standing in a large, widely spaced circle, around the audience. It is easy, when performing this way, for individual voices to ‘stand out’, but their sound remained remarkably well-blended.

The concert concluded with a fine performance of Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’, with Susan Yarnell as the outstanding soprano soloist. I particularly enjoyed the antiphonal effects in ‘Laudamus Te’. Tempi, with the exception of a very lively ‘Domine Fili’, were well chosen, and the stillness of the closing bars providing a fitting conclusion to this excellent concert.

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