London Concord Singers at St Botolph's Bishopsgate
for Remote Goat
A journey through Holy Week – varied scenery, and some spectacular views along the way.
None more so than James MacMillan's Tenebrae Responsories. A long way from the more familiar Renaissance polyphony, though Gesualdo's ghost is sometimes to be heard. Written ten years ago, it is a mighty challenge to any choir, the chromatic descending phrases in particular. But the Concord Singers, under their new conductor Jessica Norton, tackled it boldly, and brought out the dramatic, descriptive strengths of the piece as well as its moving religious power. MacMillan relates the crucifixion with humming, a crisp attack for “Deus Meus” and ornamented chant, including an effective one-woman recessional from soloist Rowena Wells.
Drama, too, in Bach's Jesu, Meine Freude, in the triple defiance of the “Trotz”.
The beautifully balanced sound of the Concord Singers, with a pleasantly resonant bass section, was heard to excellent effect in Gabriel Jackson's O Sacrum Convivium, and John Tavener's much-loved The Lamb, both very simple works at heart, as Ms Norton pointed out in her enthusiastic and informative introduction.
Robert Hugill, one of the choir's tenors, contributed a contemplative setting of the Resurrexi, with a repeated Alleluia motif.
A much more joyful Hallelujah at the end of the journey: Handel's setting sounding fresh and clear in this a cappella performance – a splendid climax to a typically eclectic programme.