Spirits lifted on a rainy night

Rock Festival Choir, A Concert of English Choral Music; St Paul’s Church, Alnwick; Sunday, June 19

ONCE again, the wonderful acoustic of St Paul’s Church resounded to the high-quality singing that we have come to eagerly anticipate from the Rock Festival Choir.

A programme of English Choral Music for Trinity Sunday had been thoughtfully prepared, giving the listener a true flavour of the development and diversity of sacred music from the 16th to the 20th century.

The choir began with John Tavener’s Song for Athene, from the lady chapel, the deep drone from the basses holding the tone for the words and angelic sounds of Allelulia, May Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest, Alleluia.

The familiar and well-loved words from both catholic and protestant traditions of worship, Lord Have Mercy, Holy, Holy Lamb of God, and Grant Us Thy Peace were presented with the purity of sound of a William Byrd four-part harmony and the contrasting jazzy rhythms for three-part treble choir and organ in Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis; this last work first performed on Trinity Sunday.

The Magnificant Collegium Regale of Herbert Howells was written to exploit the acoustic of the Chapel of King’s College and these skin-tingling harmonies were not lost in St Paul’s!

Lo the Full, Final Sacrafice and God is Gone Up from Gerald Finzi showed how much he must have loved the words he was setting to music; it was as if the right note or phrase had been chosen for every syllable and each word.

Hail, Gladdening Light from Charles Wood was most appropriate for mid-summer as the anthem says ‘the lights of evening round us shine’.

Words from Edmund Spencer’s poem Faire is the Heaven, set to music by William Harris make a fitting ending to this review:

‘How can mortal tongue hope to expresse

The image of such endlesse perfectnesse?’

The audience emerged from St Paul’s into pouring rain, but thank you to Rock Festival Choir for lifting spirits.