WAR AND PEACE
Chelmsford Singers at Chelmsford Cathedral
Seventy years ago, the Allies, Canadians in the forefront, were busy liberating the Netherlands. In a matter of weeks, the war in Europe would be over.
This timely concert commemorates the end of WWII, with a masterly sequence, beginning with Richard Tanner's setting of Desmond Tutu's Prayer for Peace. More of an affirmation, in truth, with powerful singing from the choir, and a moving diminuendo at its close.
The accompanying musicians – Tim Carey, piano, Joy Farrall, clarinet, David Juritz, violin, and Adrian Bradbury, cello, played five movements from Messiaen's extraordinary Quartet for the End of Time, written and performed in a German PoW camp. Farrall exploited the clarinet's versatile voice impressively in The Abyss of the Birds; Carey and Bradbury gave a wonderful account of the mesmeric Homage to the Eternity of Jesus. It would have been good to hear the whole work, especially in the context of this “meditation”, as the Dean called it, which concluded with Annelies, by James Whitbourn.
It is a tuneful musical setting of words from Anne Frank's diary, haunting and heartfelt without ever being sentimental - a unique opportunity to share the experience of this most intimate writing with the musicians, the choir and the audience in the Cathedral. The composer's palette encompasses sounds and symbols from life in the Amsterdam annex, moments of Music Hall, Bach and plainchant, with clarinet and violin giving a Jewish colour to much of the scoring. Nicola Howard, soprano, gave an operatic – in the best sense – reading of her sequences, bringing the character to life, lifting the notes off the stave. The choir, under the empowering baton of James Davy, gave an expressive account of the many different moods and emotions: the determined trudge of We're Jews in Chains, the optimism of the spring awakening, and the passion of the Kyrie, a plea for mercy between Anne's nightmares – the dread of discovery, bitter sadness for the loss of friends.