Saturday 14 July 2012 at 6pm, Wiltshire Music Centre
Beauty lingers in the mind
MOST concerts at the Wiltshire Music Centre are good; some are brilliant; and...

Saturday 14 July 2012 at 6 pm at the Wiltshire Music Centre

Beauty lingers in the mind

MOST concerts at the Wiltshire Music Centre are good; some are brilliant; and just a few are unmissable. Those of this choir, under Nigel Perrin, are entering that category.

Banuwa! Music for a Summer’s Evening – though there wasn’t much of the summer about it – could go down in the choir’s annals as Now for Something Completely Different. For different it was.

A rhythmic, musical entrance down two flights of stairs and from each side of the stage, to a hypnotic North African drum beat by percussionist Jeremy Little, set the tone for an evening of remarkable diversity.

Bob Chilcott’s quite captivating arrangement of five of Aesop’s Fables, culminating in The Goose and the Swan with staggering chordal progressions from Schubert, was brought alive through a standard of choral diction and clarity that can have come only through painstaking rehearsal and Perrin’s obsession with precision.

While the ebullience and enthusiasm of Elgar’s From the Bavarian Highlands swept the auditorium into the interval, the second half, of Whitacre’s Three Flower Songs and The Passing of the Year (Jonathan Dove), had that element of beauty that lingered long in the mind.

Dove’s song cycle for a double chorus, of eight parts, and two pianos – Jamie Knights and Nick Thorne – together with Little’s percussion, demonstrated supreme, almost chilling, discipline and acute musical awareness.

It was immensely challenging, exciting and gripping to listen to.

©Reg Burnard, Wiltshire Times

A lone drummer, tapping out a single beat – then the singers arrived and the party started with Banuwa!, an infectiously rhythmic song from North Africa, full of movement and joy.

It was the ideal introduction to an eclectic range of musical  styles. Bob Chilcott came next with five settings of Aesop’s Fables. His musicality and choral charisma are now legendary, and these were classics of their kind, full of unsuspected subtlety, painting a musical picture so cleverly that we could almost see The Hare and the Tortoise, then The Goose and the Swan competing for first place. The choir clearly loved it and so did the audience.

Elgar’s Bavarian Songs reflect his love of their Highlands, and the Lullaby has a gentle melancholy contrasting piquantly with the final Marksmen, bustling with extrovert liveliness and pace.

Eric Whitacre is now very big in the choral repertoire – and for his pioneering use of music on the  internet. Particularly distinctive is his use of sensitive dissonance and rhythmic variety, and his use of dynamic contrast here, between a setting of Emily Dickinson’s I Hide Myself, and Lorca’s With a Lily in your Hand. They pose an interesting vocal challenge and the choir was right there – actually watching conductor, Nigel Perrin – mostly anyway – and producing a very good sound.

Jonathon Dove’s The Passing of the Year presented a different kind of challenge. Set for two choirs, Dove’s highly characteristic, striking soundscape again sets a series of poems in a way which contrasts a swirling sweep of sound with a quiet tranquillity, for instance, in Blake’s Sunflower.

Tennyson’s Wild Bells rang out with a rare clamour and brought the sequence to an enchanting finish. Another test for the choir, which they took on with evident relish and passed with distinction to conclude an imaginatively varied, enjoyable evening’s music. Pianists Jamie Knights and Nick Thorne provided a remarkably realistic orchestral reduction on the two pianos  and Jeremy Little’s percussion made a suitably bold impact including some rather attractive bells.

All we needed to complete the entertainment was the sun, which looked in briefly, and then pushed off, sadly for the would-be picnickers. But Nigel Perrin and his versatile choir were in excellent form and that’s why we were all there.

©Peter Lloyd Williams Bath Chronicle 16 July 2012

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