‘Fower Sovereygnes Reygnes’ - The Music of Thomas Tallis
St Georges Church, Kendal.
Sat 10th March 2018
Levens Choir and Marian Consort
Director: Rory McCleery
I might have stayed at home in the company of Father Brown, had I not been lured out by the combined forces of Levens Choir and the Marian Consort singing the music of Thomas Tallis. And what a rewarding experience it was, complete with its own musicological detective story.
Tallis composed at a time of religious turmoil, during the reigns of Henry 8th, Edward 6th, Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st. He rolled with the tide, writing music to suit the latest religious and political outlook: for Catholic worship; the new Protestant Church; the English Prayer Book; the Catholics again, and finally, new Anglicanism. So, we were taken on a sublime musical journey as we listened to compositions which reflected these changes in style. Throughout, we were grateful to the erudition of Director Rory McCleery. His brief introductions were delightfully apposite, his programme notes masterly in charting our tour.
This was a memorable evening, the singing lovely throughout the richly varied concert, larger choral items being interspersed with works for the Consort alone. Levens Choir, each section strengthened by the soloists of the Marian Consort, produced a glowing, seemingly effortless tone, throughout the vocal range. The blending and balancing of voices was excellent too, even in the works for more than four parts, as for example in the magnificently sung Gaude Gloriosa, the highlight of my evening. The full sections in this work allow little let-up for the singers, with rests few and far between, but energy levels never faltered. The solo sections shone. Indeed, the eight voices of the Consort shone all evening, whatever they sang.
I struggled to find shortcomings. I might have wished for greater dynamic range on occasion or clearer diction on another? Did I detect some uncertainty at the opening of Sacrum Convivium? Perhaps this was the reason that when the audience demanded an encore, we were treated to a beautiful repeat performance, one which summed up the whole evening. A sacred banquet indeed!
Last year we offered a pair of tickets to a Chamber Music Plus concert for new subscribers to our mailing list; for 2017/18 we are asking for reviews of any of the CMP concerts. There's still time to enter! Please send your entries to email@example.com
Christopher Morley, Chief Music Critic of the Birmingham Post, recently asked us a few questions about Chamber Music Plus and this article appeared in the Post in November 2017:
I went to a lunchtime guitar recital at the Barber Concert Hall, Birmingham University on Friday 24 November to hear a recital by Sean Shibe. The Concert Hall was full, including a class of school children but he silenced us all with the sound his guitar produced. He was outstanding, shaping each note. He was able to sustain a melody note while executing passing harmony elsewhere.
He played Lute Suite no 4 in E major by J S Bach, and several Etudes and Preludes by H Villa-Lobos. But for me the best was 4 little pieces which were extra to those printed on the programme. He said that they were from early Scottish manuscripts and they were lilting folk tunes with fantastic harmonics which filled the Concert Hall.
Sean Shibe is a classical guitarist from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He is of both Scottish and Japanese ancestry. He studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and with Italian guitarist Paolo Pegoraro.
Last week we sent out the 2017 Spring Newsletter to all our postal subscribers - together with a galaxy of information regarding forthcoming concerts. If you'd like to join this mailing list please contact us and we will add you and send you a copy.
The envelope included details of Leamington Music Festival Weekend, the Worcestershire Early Music Festival (and Pride & Prejudice Ball), the second season of Old Chapel Court Concerts in Tewkesbury, Tewkesbury Abbey's festival of music in the liturgy Musica Deo Sacra, and Longborough Opera's season (Tristan und Isolde, Fidelio, The Magic Flute, Orfeo ed Euridice)...
...plus a flyer for an additional concert presented this season by Malvern Concert Club on Friday 7 April at 2.30pm with pianist Clare Hammond.
If you've been to Birmingham Symphony Hall you have probably seen this painting - I've just come across the latest entry in the artist Norman Perryman's blog: "A few weeks ago, with over two thousand others, I was shuffling towards the exit of Birmingham's Symphony Hall, slightly dazed, the sounds of Mahler 1 still going through my whole being. Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla had just conducted the CBSO in another fabulous concert. They brought the house down! We pass by my painting The Mahler Experience - Symphony Hall. "Look", a woman in front of me says to her group, "I think that may be Mahler 2, with Simon Rattle". "That's right", I mutter. "Are you sure?" "Yeah, I painted it". The crowd comes to a standstill. "You painted it! Hey, he painted it!" Handshakes all round. I find this reaction rather amusing, but it happens every time I'm in Birmingham. A group of teenagers is hanging around. I try not to feel prejudiced about their demeanour. One of them eventually approaches me and says: "Sir, I just have to tell you: that painting changed my life. I now love classical music"."
Norman Perryman is an "English artist born in Birmingham, living in Amsterdam. Painted many great musicians. Forty years ago started painting kinetic visuals live in concert, with major orchestras. 1993 BBC Television documentary with Sir Simon Rattle. “A musician who makes music with his paintbrush” (Yehudi Menuhin)."
Stile Antico first came to my attention when they won the audience prize at the York Early Music Festival Young Artists Competition back in 2005 - they're now recognised as one of the world's finest vocal groups, with many critically acclaimed recordings under their collective belts. There's an opportunity to hear them at Malvern Concert Club on Thursday 24 November, in a programme celebrating Shakespeare's 400th anniversary. In my opinion, a concert not to be missed!
Reviews of a similar programme they performed at this year's BBC Proms said "Stile Antico brings a fresh, intelligent and collaborative approach to vocal polyphony...The beauty of the tone was exceptional,...stunning vocal selections" (Classical Source) and "Robert Ramsey’s ‘Sleep, fleshly birth’...was stunning. Ramsey, director of music at Trinity College Cambridge, is probably a name less familiar to us than that of Morley, Byrd, Tomkins et al: his dramatic madrigal in six movement, Dialogues of Sorrow upon the Death of the Late Prince Henry, is only partially extant, but ‘Sleep, fleshly birth’ is almost certainly a tribute to the Prince. Stile Antico milked the chromatic piquancy for all it was worth, without the slightest hint of mannerism, and this performance has sent me scurrying to find recordings of Ramsey." (Opera Today)
To mark the performance by the 12 Ensemble in Birmingham University's Bramall Hall on 16 November, Christopher Morley has interviewed Alessandro Ruisi, Max Ruisi and Roberto Ruisi for the Birmingham Post about their Birmingham roots: "The remarkable thing is that there is no previous history of musical talent in the Ruisi family, yet the brothers have already achieved so much. Max has a busy career both in chamber music (in which he also coaches student ensembles) and orchestral music, performing with a range of major professional orchestras; Alessandro has developed an enviable reputation in both chamber and orchestral music, and is co-leader of the European Chamber Orchestra as well as Ensemble 12, and Roberto’s lift-off has been truly dazzling, from being appointed the youngest concertmaster in the history of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, through taking a year off his studies to play as a member of the hand-picked John Wilson Orchestra, to guest-leading as concertmaster of both the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in Dublin."
The Ruisi Quartet play for Wye Valley Music on 27 November, and for Ludlow Music Society on 1 April.
"Festivals of this scope need a motivator who’ll go to the ends of the earth for the full works, and a team willing to follow him; in Kynoch and his staff the Oxford Lieder Festival has both. Mahler and Vienna is the theme for next year; already it seems ripe in inception."
David Nice reviews the finale of the Oxford Lieder Festival for The Arts Desk
This Saturday, 5 November Gloucester Music Society hosts the premiere of the Piano Trio by Adrian Williams, commissioned by the Piano Trio to mark its 21st anniversary and played alongside music by Moeran and Stanford by the Fidelio Trio. There's an article in the current issue of Classical Music about Williams' new work:
"Writing a piano trio had been a lifelong dream for Adrian Williams, so he didn’t hesitate when the chance arose. ‘For some reason, it became a very important thing to do – perhaps because I’m a pianist,’ he says. ‘I was delighted when an opportunity came up, especially since it was to write for the Fidelio Trio.’ Williams says that the work came naturally. ‘I didn’t really struggle with it, but once certain things are on the go, things start moving around; certain ideas you’d set aside for the end find themselves in the middle. Sometimes I had to go for a long walk and hope I’d have sorted it out by the time I get back!’ Part of the reason for the work’s untroubled genesis could be its single movement form. ‘I like working with that form. I put all the ideas in there and they all start doing things; and then before I know it, I’ve come to the end!’"
Blog written by Jill Davies, who runs the Severn Muses project as well as Chamber Music Plus.
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