As part of the prestigious Brandenburg Choral Festival, on Thursday evening the Oakham School Chamber Choir performed a spectacular concert in the delightful setting of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.
The programme opened with Mozart’s Missa Brevis in F (KV 192) conducted by Peter Davis, Director of Music. The finest of Mozart’s very early mass settings, the mass has been described as both intelligent and brilliant. In his youthful writing, Mozart is applauded for an ability to write music for the church that was not significantly different in style to the music of the court or the opera house. This was perfectly exemplified by the talented Chamber Choir. The performance included exceptional solo singing by students Beth (soprano), Helen (Alto), Tom (Tenor), and Dickon (Bass). The mass is characterised by Mozart’s captivating innovation in both structure and style, for example in the Agnus Dei which is an early model for Schubert’s poetic utterances in the genre.
Michael Tippett’s oratorio, A Child of our Time, is notable for its inclusion of his five arrangements of traditional American spirituals. In this re-scoring of the music for a cappella choir, Five Spirituals (A Child of our Time), are some of the most renowned 20th Century choral works for chamber choir, retaining the direct word-setting of the original spirituals whilst adorning them with vivid solo and choral writing to enhance their musical expressivity. Beginning with the beautiful Steal Away the choir sang with a warm and heartfelt tone. This was followed by Nobody Knows, the strident Go down, Moses, a lilting rendition of By and by and a stirring Deep river. The performance was a highlight of the concert and the choir’s enjoyment of the work was palpable. Animated with a rich blend in sound, the performance was enhanced by joyous solos from Lily (soprano), Helen (alto), Morgan (tenor) and Andrew (bass).
The concert closed with the ethereal Lux aeterna by Morten Lauridsen. The work is comprised of five connected movements and the cycle contains references to Light assembled from various sacred Latin texts. Morten composed Lux aeterna in response to his mother’s final illness and the choir sang with sensitivity and perfectly captured the intended air of solace and comfort. A sense of timelessness was achieved and the choir sang to a captivated audience. Lauridsen writes: the work opens and closes with the beginning and ending of the Requiem Mass, with the central three movements drawn respectively from the Te Deum (including a line from Beatus vir), O nata lux, and Veni, Sancte Spiritus. The opening Introitus introduces several themes that recur later in the work and includes an extended canon on ‘et lux perpetua’. In te, Domine, speravi contains, among other musical elements, the cantus firmus ‘Herzliebster Jesu’ (from Nuremberg Songbook, 1677) and a lengthy inverted canon on ‘Fiat misericordia’. O nata lux and Veni, Sancte Spiritus are paired songs, the former a central, a cappella motet and the latter a spirited, jubilant canticle. A quiet setting of the Agnus Dei precedes the final Lux aeterna, which reprises the opening section of the Introitus and concludes with a joyful and celebratory Alleluia. The choir successfully achieved Lauridsen’s concept of quiet meditation but also celebratory enlightenment. The Oakham Chamber Choir were privileged in performing Lux aeterna at the Brandenburg Choral Festival again, having first sung the work in the festival 5 years ago. They marked the composer’s 75th birthday year, and the 20th anniversary of the work’s première. Attended by many Old Oakhamians, in their words this was a truly memorable performance, a splendid concert by an excellent choir.
Click here to see photographs from this fantastic event.