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VOCES8: The Howard Greenwood Concert

by on 12 October 2017

Cheek to Cheek, we Circuibo Civitatem

VOCES8

 The Howard Greenwood Concert for the Richmond Concert Society

at St. Mary’s Church, Twickenham, 10th October

Review by William Vine and Thomas Forsythe.

“Back by popular demand”, said the flyers for the British vocal ensemble VOCES8.  It is not hard to see why.  The versatility of the ensemble, with a repertoire that ranges from renaissance polyphony to jazz and more, has put it in great demand throughout Europe, America and in many other parts of the world.  With such a lively and varied programme, this was a chance for the staid Richmond Concert Society to let its hair down.

VOCES8 1

And what a super programme it was: we had William Byrd’s Laudibus in Sanctis and we had Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing.  VOCES8’s own arrangement of the Byrd, rhythmic and powerful, bought early music to life.  Ellington took us to a different land entirely, and a colourful one. Similarly, Nat “King” Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right was followed by an excerpt from Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana.  This was the Choral Dances, superbly sung and with an outstanding solo.

The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel and Van Morrison’s Moondance made an unlikely lead-in, by a surprisingly effective one, to a piece of 16th Century Spanish sacred choral music. This was Vadam et Circuibo Civitatem (I will arise and go about the city), by Tomás Luis de Victoria, one of the most famous liturgical composers of his time, hauntingly ethereal.  Jonathan Dove’s brand-new composition by the same title, and inspired by Victoria, was beautifully lyrical.  Dove has just had huge success with the premiere of his newly orchestrated opera, Mansfield Park, which closed the inaugural season of the new Grange Festival.  Read Mark Aspen’s review here

The Bourrée in E minor from J. S. Bach’s Lute Suite was given the lightest of touches in an arrangement by Ward Swingle.  This breaks into swing half-way through and reminds us that it was intended as a dance.  In modern times, the piece has become popular with guitarists, but VOCES8 showed a great vocal arrangement.  And of course, they gave it the full swing-along treatment (almost à la Rock Choir).

Folk songs of course have always been a great source for musicians of all hues, and VOCES8 took us through a lovely nostalgic selection with titles such as Lightly She Whipped O’er the Dales or The Nymphs and Shepherds Danced or Hark! Did Ye Ever Hear Such Sweet Singing?  You get the idea: delightful.

Moving chronologically the ensemble fell into comfortable sophistication with Irving Berlin’s romantic Cheek to Cheek and on to that Duke Ellington.

“It Don’t Mean a Thing” sings the Dook, but half a millennium of choral music definitely does, and when it is as vivacious as VOCES8’s it will unquestionably be back by popular demand.

William Vine and Thomas Forsythe

October 2017

 

 

From → Music, Reviews

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