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St. Davids Cathedral July 2010

Posted in the Concert Reports Category

with Jane Watts organ Sophie Davies soprano Allan Smith baritone

Once upon a time one looked forward, sometimes with trepidation, to a music critic’s report on a concert with which one had a close working connection, but not now.  Even in the most august of publications, The Times perhaps, the Guardian or DailyTelegraph, you can find mention of some music event, but even the most illustrious of names and performances miss out.

So what can someone do who is just bursting to transmit an experience to those not fortunate to be there?  Such was the event last night in St.Davids Cathedral, made possible by inclusion in the Fishguard International Music Festival.  The choral and organ programme publicised as musique entente cordiale was a feast of French and British music, which because of timing chose to leave out Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Parry, other Welsh composers and Stanford (though perhaps he would have qualified before Irish partition), Messiaen, Dupre, Poulenc etc.  As it was, the first half was good measure at nearly an hour.

What was  there sufficed, which included living composers – Mervyn Burtch’s Ave verum corpus, James Macmillan’s A New song,  John Rutter’s God be in my head and Judith Bingham’s The darkness is  no darkness with its haunting segue into S.S.Wesley’s Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.  The Bingham revealed a soprano voice beautifully floating above the line along with that of a tenor, not named in the programme. Sometimes choices made (as in the Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings) for the solo parts are too late for printing.  On this occasion Jessica Cale and Roland George.

A composition by the late William Mathias, with Yvonne and Rhiannon Mathias amongst those listening, was a new revelation of the words of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis with its electrifying and unexpected repeat of the words “for ever” before the Gloria.  A work which must surely be heard more often.

French organ pieces by Vierne and Jehan Alain (brother to Marie-Claire) played by international musician, Jane Watts, showed the thrilling power of both instrument and player, who also accompanied throughout.

To crown the evening came Faure’s incomparable Requiem performed by this gem of an ensemble in stunning form, with its soaring soprano line and matching other parts.  Moulded as one voice so many times, achieved only by the more “famous” groups, led by a Director dedicated to interpreting the composer’s intentions and the text itself.  The miraculous pianissimos throughout, the beautiful treble like voice of Sophie Davies in the all-too short Pie Jesu and the passionate tones of the baritone Allan Smith, made this one for the memory bank. There was that “breathless hush in the Close” at the end following the sublime In paradisum.

John S.Davies takes his ensemble to Milford in September to perform a different programme of choral music, then to St.Peter’s Church Dinas Powys in October and Picton Castle in December.

28/7/2010                                                           Marion Butler