Saturday, June 06, 2009


Chelmsford Cathedral


To celebrate Purcell's 350th birthday – still three months away – and to raise funds for the Choral Foundation, Director of Music Peter Nardone had assembled a stellar cast. Not even in the glory days of the much missed Cathedral Festival would we expect to see all these great names on the same stage.

And it was appropriate that the excellent Music Department of Chelmsford Cathedral should play a central part, too. The choir, echoing the forces Purcell himself had at his disposal, were on superb form, and the anthem O God, Thou Art My God, with its glorious Hallelujah, was entirely sung by the home team, including five soloists from the Choir.

In the opening Te Deum, Rebecca Outram's soprano was unusually, but highly effectively, matched with the strong, true treble of chorister Henry Allen. James Bowman's counter-tenor was movingly eloquent in the final verse.

Bowman's solo moment, accompanied by Tom Wilkinson at the continuo organ, was the poignant Evening Hymn, and he joined Timothy Travers-Brown, one of the most promising counter-tenors of the current generation, to spar jovially through the duet Sound the Trumpet, in the climax of the concert, Come Ye Sons of Art.

The instrumental accompaniment included the Fitzwilliam Quartet and trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins, who also shone in the Ayre from The Indian Queen.

For there were instrumental interludes, too, as well as the Bell Anthem and the Birthday Ode, amply demonstrating the breadth of Purcell's genius in a varied programme, memorably performed. He is often dubbed England's finest native composer, and I'm sure that the soloists in the Cathedral, whose discographies have Purcell at their heart, would not disagree.

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