DONA NOBIS PACEM
Vaughan Williams Reflection and Remembrance at Chelmsford Cathedral.
It is fifty years since Ralph Vaughan Williams died, and ninety since the guns fell silent at the end of the Great War.
Chelmsford Cathedral marked both events with a thoughtful act of remembrance, devised by Peter Kendal, which included two excellent performances, one of a choral work, one of a song cycle.
Dona Nobis Pacem, a fervent plea for peace, was written in 1936 as the war clouds began to gather again over Europe. Peter Nardone conducted the Chelmsford Singers, the gentlemen of the Cathedral Choir, Soprano Cheryl Enever and Baritone Colin Campbell in a powerful performance. The choir evoked the inexorable rush to war in first chorus, and made the Dirge for Two Veterans almost unbearably poignant. The orchestral accompaniment was well suggested by Tom Wilkinson at the piano and James Norrey at the organ.
Colin Campbell, with Peter Nardone at the piano, gave us the Songs of Travel, Vaughan Williams' early setting of verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Campbell's strong, persuasive baritone was well suited to these outgoing melodies, from the jaunty Vagabond to the reflective, retrospective Epilogue, discovered amongst the composer's papers after his death.
These superb soloists, together with some beautiful choral singing, made for an experience which would not have been out of place in a concert hall – the Cathedral's Music Department are to be congratulated for bringing work of this quality to the liturgy.