Thursday, December 20, 2012


Writtle Singers in All Saints' Church

Glory and lowliness – the two themes of this beautifully presented concert – come together in Ted Hughes' powerful poem Minstrel's Song [read by Martyn Richards]. It was followed by a brief but brilliant Gloria, penned by Martin Shaw, a former organist at Writtle. A much older Gloria, by Robert Cowper, began the sequence, and a third, by Colchester composer Alan Bullard, ended it – Cantate Gloria, with its uplifting rhythmic drive.

In between, typically careful programming saw the one secular piece – Martin Taylor's Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind, with its lovely Heigh-ho ending – leading into In The Bleak Midwinter; The Barn, a poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth, heralding an attractive arrangement of Silent Night, and the sublime simplicity of Tallis's O Nata Lux contrasted with the lively complexity of an old French carol, Célébrons La Naissance.

Some wonderful sounds in the candlelight from this ambitious chamber choir, directed by Christine Gwynn with Andrew Taylor as accompanist, as well as a chance to join in some old favourites before the mulled wine and mince pies.

Minstrel's Song

I've just had an astonishing dream as I lay in the straw.
I dreamed a star fell on to the straw beside me
And lay blazing. Then when I looked up
I saw a bull come flying through a sky of fire
And on its shoulders a huge silver woman
Holding the moon. And afterward there came
A donkey flying through that same burning heaven
And on its shoulders a colossal man
Holding the sun. Suddenly I awoke
And saw a bull and a donkey kneeling in the straw,
and the great moving shadows of a man and a woman—
I say they were a man and a woman but
I dare not say what I think they were. I did not dare to look.
I ran out here into the freezing world
Because I dared not look. Inside that shed.

A star is coming this way along the road.
If I were not standing upright, this would be a dream.
A star the shape of a sword of fire, point-downward,
Is floating along the road. And now it rises.
It is shaking fire on to the roofs and the gardens.
And now it rises above the animal shed
Where I slept 'til the dream woke me. And now
The star is standing over the animal shed.
Ted Hughes (1930–1998)

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