Review: Vale Of Glamorgan Festival - Vox Clamantis @ St. Augustine's Church
The second evening of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival was to be in Penarth, in Saint Augustine's Church. For me Penarth is one of the loveliest places in the area. The 'Garden by the Sea' stills charms with its Victorian houses and quaint shops.
The church for this concert can be seen from Cardiff Bay. That church on the head. It's beautiful and has music at its heart. Joseph Parry, composer of the famous songs Myfanwy and Aberystwyth lived in Penarth and is buried in the church. You can't miss his tombstone. It's white marble and has a lyre on top.
This was also my first time in the church. It's a fine piece of architecture if ever there was one. Huge columns and plenty of quotes from the Bible are adorned above them. I noticed as the evening progresses the sun was gleaming and caused a ray of light to go through one of the windows and appear on the statue of Jesus raised above us. Its appearance was like the wound he recorded from the lance. Perhaps this was intended when they built the church.
This choir from Estonia were on fine form. Sadly the programme had its order changed. This is very annoying when so many little works were being preformed. As always anything by Avro PÃ¤rt is a blessing. He's one of the most famous composers today and has touched the world with his music. His Alleluia-Tropus, And One Of The Pharisees and Virgencita all stood out as celestial highlights of the evening. His highly religious music is written for a time when religion is waning and met with avoidance and pessimism.
Breaking with tradition in the festival, we had a touch of Gregorian Chant for the concert (all music is normally by living composers). We were graced with two world premiers by John Metcalf (artistic director of the festival), Laudate Dominum and Galina Grigorieva with her Bless The Lord, O My Soul. Both composers were commissioned and could choose to have a choral work sung in English, Latin or Hebrew. It turns out only one composers went for the later, the rest falling back on the easier options.
A curious work was that by another Estonian, Helena Tulve. Her piece was for choir and prepared piano. This is basically when objects get added into the strings of the piano case. This completely changes the sound of the piano and was famously used by American composer John Cage. In the interval I wanted to see just what see had put in and it was nothing but chopsticks! It had a very eerie quality to it, unlike any of the other pieces. It felt more real than the others. Looking up at Jesus on the cross and contemplating the sheer misery and agony involved. A fine work.
This choir had many resolutely gripping moments. Their sheer beauty and shades of colour whilst singing were worthy of tears. I may have cried also since the pews were so uncomfortable. Always bring a cushion to a church concert. The next evening in Penarth was a venture into percussion music and a complete different experience...