21 December 2020


At the moment, I feel like I'm reacquainting myself with the scene after the Covid shutdowns.  If the Sydney outbreak blows up, I might need to be be doing that again in several months time, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying it.  This next gig was with I Progetti, Charis Messalina de Valence's mediaeval-influenced choir, this time in the vibrant-sounding foyer of the National Portrait Gallery.  And it was a huge pleasure.  This is an SATB choir of 8, so a pairing for each voice, so small and clear and beautifully intoned, even through some more chromatic lines.  Anthony Smith was there as keyboard accompanist (variously harpsichords, organs and more) but he sometimes just introduced with a pitch, so the singers were a capella.  Small can be less thrilling but also more precise and clear.  I found myself with closed eyes shortly into the concert, and sat like that for most of it.  They arrived with an initial joke of arm-length social distancing.  Then into a circle for four short brackets of 4/5 songs each.  I said mediaeval, but not just.  The composers ranged from the likes of Josquin de Pres and Pretorius and Lodovico Grossi da Viadana through Anon. and Trad. to Howard Blake and Dominic Fox and Eric Whitacre.  The choir also has a resident composer, Mark Chapman, who provided the opening song "Welcome, Yule!".  I loved the variation, adored the clarity and precision, drooled over a high soprano (hard to identify, but I'm told it was Charis) and then, to finish off, the Christmas carol singalong.  I immensely enjoyed finding my recently unused voice (generously the pitch was comfy).  We sang First nowell (I have just learned that "nowell" is the Cornish original; "noel" is an Americanisation [source: Wikipedia]), Come all ye faithful and Hark! the Herald angels sing.  My recordings of the event weren't so successful, but the concert was.  So lovely; such clarity in such an apt space.  A great pleasure.

Charis Messalina de Valence (director, soprano) led I Progetti chamber choir at the National Portrait Gallery.  Anthony Smith (keyboard) accompanied.  Singers were Charis and Ngaire Breen (soprano), Mary Woodhouse and Susannah Bishop (alto), Steven Harris (tenor, occasional alto), Tristan Struve (tenor, baritone), Mark Chapman (bass, occasional composer) and Steven Strach (bass).

No comments: