This week, our Monteverdi 1610 Vespers plans started to take shape, as we had a first peek at the music and a workshop with Robert Hollingworth, the director of I Fagiolini, who will conduct our performance on 21 October. It was a hardworking but rewarding day, and Robert managed to cram in a fantastic amount of information for us, along with a good helping of classic comedy references and plenty of fun.
The candles illuminating the chapel are being snuffed out one by one; the serenely beautiful faces painted on the walls and ceiling fade slowly into the gloom; and somewhere above you, out of the darkness, comes the sound of a choir. The words they’re singing come from Psalm 51 and are a bleak acknowledgement of all humanity’s manifold sins and wickedness, a cry of pain searching for relief: and the healing comes from the music itself, so simple and gentle, with an ethereally pure solo voice rising effortlessly out of the harmony. You’re in the Sistine Chapel, on Good Friday, and the music you’re listening to is Miserere Mei, Deus, by Gregorio Allegri.
We had a wonderful time on 19 November singing Messiah to a full cathedral nave, and getting a standing ovation too! It was an honour to welcome our five young soloists from Samling Academy and to hear the amazingly powerful bass voice of Samling Artist Arshak Kuzikyan. As ever, our wonderful period instrument orchestra filled us with energy. Here are a few photos from the weekend, taken by Edmund Ong, Allison Potter, Linda Atunes, Jane Shuttleworth and Julian Wright. For full details, please visit the concert page here
We know that, for families with young children, coming to a full evening's concert is not easy, and so as part of our afternoon rehearsals in the cathedral, we've taken to giving a mini-performance of one of the highlight moments of whatever we're preparing, so that children can enjoy a little taster of a really exciting piece of live music, in a completely relaxed, informal way. It began in 2014 with Zadok the Priest and last year around a hundred primary school children joined us to sing "The Heavens are Telling" from Haydn's The Creation. This year with Messiah, there's only one possible choice for our afternoon spot – the legendary "Hallelujah chorus". Read on to find out a little bit more about this famous piece of music:
Our next concert is probably the most unusual one we've ever taken part in, for never before have any of us sung with an orchestra of 40 lute players.
We've been invited to take part in a concert in Durham Castle on 30 October with the European Lute Orchestra, a group of professional and semi-professional lutenists that was founded in 2011 by their director, Professor Gian Luca Lastraioli, with the aim of recreating a lost sound of the renaissance – the massed lute band. This is also the first time that the European Lute Orchestra has performed outside Italy.
Samling Academy soprano Ana Fernández Guerra first performed with us in last year’s cathedral concert, delighting us with her combination of sensitivity and technical agility as she sang the arias for Eve in the second half of Haydn’s The Creation.
We’re very much looking forward to hearing her again this year, when she will be singing the soprano arias in Messiah. We talked to her about Messiah, about Samling Academy, and about working with our professional period instrument orchestra.
Joseph Beaumont's meditation on the immense capabilities of human imagination is made even more powerful in Howells's sublime setting, which closes our concert: