26 March 2012

Announcing a virgin birth

It’s coming on to Easter and there are choral concerts a plenty. This one was Igitur nos performing music on the Annunciation. In these post-religious times I should explain. The Annunciation is the announcement by angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God, third person of the Trinity, by a virgin birth. It’s a strange story when you think on it (and who’d believe it from a teenaged daughter?), but thems were different times. This is the music of believers, from an era when all believed and shared a common belief, a time when they built monuments to this belief, the great cathedrals (and the sanctification of god-given monarchical power). And despite this being music of deep belief, it was also the business of the time: glorious, otherworldly, heart rending music fit for European stone and reverberant spaces that people earned their living from. Despite the all-too-human business of it, the sacred choral tradition is a thing of beauty even for non-believers.

I loved this concert for the sounds of soaring soprano, the interplay of counterpoint, the malleable male voices, the beauty of a few intoned strings. Igitur Nos is a very capable group. There were some times I felt uncomfortable with intonation or harshness of voice or string, but I only mention this because they were so few. From the first powerful words of Gorecki’s Totus tuus through Byrd and Pergolesi and names lesser known to me, this was rich and symbolic and well performed. The feature works were selections from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Durante’s Magnificat. The Stabat Mater featured soprano Sarahlouise Owens and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Carmichael with mingling and interlaced voices singing the tragic loss of Mary at the cross. It’s beautiful but intensely sad. I particularly enjoyed the exaltation of the Magnificat. A friend of conductor Matthew Stuckings wished to use it for her wedding. I could understand. This was soaring, joyous, annimated music. Sarahlouise and Rebecca performed as a pair, as did Jonathan McFeat and Peter Laurence at other times. The Gorecki was a powerful and unexpected introduction of forte block chords for all voices then a wash of deeply emotional murmurings on a Marian theme. JS Bach made an appearance with the Sinfonia from Cantata BWV169 featuring a locally made chamber organ and chamber orchestra. This was typically flowing, jaunty melody and a total joy. Otherwise, there was Elizabethan and chants right up to modern. A wonderfully intimate program well performed in an apt environment of stone and timber. Soul stirring and much enjoyed.

Igitur nos performed with a chamber orchestra and organ at All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie. Matthew Stuckings conducted. Featured singers were Sarahlouise Owens, Rebecca Carmichael, Jonathan McFeat and Peter Laurence. Terry Norman played the chamber organ constructed locally by Trevor Bunning and Roger Jones.

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