REVIEW: CONSORT SW1 sing at Arundel Cathedral


Review by Marilyn Hurdwell

We were cordially invited to “Immerse Yourself in the Space, Light & Sound of Arundel Cathedral”

Excellent Programme notes supplied by three of the 24 choristers introduced this very special and unusual concert of sacred music. It was given by the recently-formed and very talented Chamber Choir based in London, under the inspirational leadership of Richard McVeigh. There was plenty of SPACE for the singers to employ various configurations and antiphonal effects, LIGHT in the form of vivid rainbow illuminations of the cathedral’s inner sanctum of pillars and statues, and SOUND such as is rarely heard: so effective, intense and ethereal…

This mesmerising concert was divided into three concurrent sections: A Sequence for Our Lady, A Sequence of English Choral Music and A Sequence for Sleep, with connective ancient Plainsong linking the sections. In the first we enjoyed sublime music by Sir John Tavener (well-known for his Song for Athene, played at the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales), also music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Francis Poulenc and a fine Rhapsody by Herbert Howells, played on the Cathedral’s lofty organ by Richard McVeigh. Next we heard music by the relatively little-known Sir William Henry Harris, followed by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Thomas Tallis and Orlando Gibbons – whose stunning madrigal The Silver Swan was beautifully sung. We also heard Howells’ very moving “Take him. Earth for Cherishing” in memory of J K Kennedy. As an interlude we heard one of J S Bach’s fine cantatas, again from the organ loft.

The final section began again with John Tavener: (“As one who has slept”), then Eriks Esenvalds - a Latvian composer, featuring a lovely soprano solo: “Only in sleep”. Stephen Paulus was represented by his “Pilgrim’s Hymn” which was performed for the funerals of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Finally we were treated to Eric Whitacre’s gorgeous “Sleep”, composed in 2000, with the choir split into 8 parts, then processing quietly down the aisle, the sound fading into nothing with a repeated hypnotic motif….

Consort SW1 will be performing Morten Lauridsen’s wonderful O Magnum Mysterium , along with other favourite Christmas Music at the Church of St Cross, Winchester, on 21 December at 7.30pm

Marilyn Hurdwell