Friday, 6 July 2012

Mirror of Perfection review

In tune with the forthcoming London Olympics, Valentine Singers presented a programme of British works by Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Blackford last Saturday evening.  The Singers were joined by the Jericho Ensemble and soloists Elizabeth Menezes (soprano) and John Llewelyn Evans (baritone).

Gerald Finzi’s Dies Natalis is a cantata for string orchestra and tenor or soprano soloist, and was not performed at the Three Choirs Festival until 1946 having been delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War. The delightful Elizabeth Menezes and the Jericho Ensemble provided the rich textures and long melodic lines for a very satisfying, lyrical performance of this evocative work.

The Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs ­- a collection of George Herbert texts - range from the melodic to the uplifting.  John Llewelyn Evans gave a fine performance, particularly in Love bade me welcome, and Valentine Singers were equally excellent whether accompanying the soloist in the final bars of I got me flowers or in the rousing final movement, Let all the world in every corner sing.

Richard Blackford’s Mirror of Perfection was written in the mid-1990s, his inspiration being the poetry of Saint Francis of Assisi. This work brought the Singers, both soloists and an augmented Jericho Ensemble together for settings of seven canticles.  From Canticle of the Furnace with its complex rhythmic patterns and angular lines from the string players to the calm and melodic final movement Canticle of Peace, the composer is urging the listener to confront our “age of spiritual emptiness and cultural decline”.

Directed by the excellent Christine Gwynn, Valentine Singers never fail to give the audience total commitment and a very professional performance. It is worth noting that they are offering three opportunities for you to join with them to discover (or rekindle) your love of singing at Choral Taster Workshops on the 6th, 13th and 20th of July – phone 020 8504 1261 for details.

John Buckmaster

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