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Review: Crickhowell Choral Society - Tavener's Eternity's Sunrise @ St Edmund's Church

Posted by Weeping Tudor from Cardiff - Published on 22/05/2015 at 12:02
0 comments » - Tagged as Culture, Festivals, History, Music, People, Sport & Leisure, Travel

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Crickhowell Music Society

Saint Edmund's Church

Crickhowell, Powys

Sunday 3rd May 2015

It is thanks to Saint David's Hall that I saw the flyer for this choral society's festival. The big theme is signs and wonders, revealed in apocalyptic imagery and the joy of eternity.

I couldn't make it over for last night's concert, featuring Welsh premiers of Marcello and Pergolesi. This morning's church service featured Bach's cantata, Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 - something else I sadly missed. But, tonight's programme was a big seller for me. Through some expense and trouble, I ventured over to this sleepy town, in expected bad weather, diminished by the stunning landscapes that surround the south of Powys.

It felt as if most of Chirkhowell were here for some great music. Sitting right at the back of the altar, I soon realised that soprano Elin Manahan Thomas would be starting the concert right by me at the back of the church. Imagine me, inches away from one of Wales' best singers, my ears pierced in high pitched glory from her singing. This was Hildegarde von Bingen (her Ave Maria), who is remarkable if only for her age. Writing music nearly a millennium ago, her songs may be unpolished but they are still very spiritually pleasing. Thomas would later sing her O tu suavissima virga from the pulpit of the church in more joyous declarations of faith.

The choir had their moments in Hayden's Insanae et vanae curae. This is a super motet and has some affirmed and preaching elements for the choir, saying that man's mind is corrupted and his only redemption is in faith. The singing of John Tavener's As one who has slept felt underrehearsed, but rough and ready - probably how the composer would like it. Thomas returned for his Eternity's Sunrise, a work dedicated to Lady Di and abound in its subtle exoticism and mystic nature. Though not as ecstatic as the astounding Patricia Rosario, who premiered most female roles in Tavener's work, here Thomas was delicate and a varying sort of refinement.

Faur's Requiem is a crowd-pleaser and, again, Thomas' version of the Pie Jesu is of a sublime grace. The male solo role, ably sung by Nicholas Gedge, made for great listening of a bass singer. The choir were in their element here, as were the musicians, strings, brass, organ, et al. This is what Wales is all about. Not just male voice choirs, but mixed choirs, singing what they love and having no regrets.

An interesting little trip. Keen to hear the Messiaen now!

Rating: 4 stars

The Chirkhowell Choral Society festival concludes with Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time with the Huw Watkins Ensemble at St. Edmund's Church, Chirkhowell on Thursday 14th May 2015 (students go free).

Future events include their summer concert in Llangattock Church, Monday 6th July 2015.

Music for Saint Cecilia concert at St. Mary's Church, Abergavenny is on Saturday 21st November 2015, including Mozart's C minor Mass and Arvo Part's Cecilia, vergine romana.

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