A spiritual climax in the cathedral

Stabat Mater, by Karl Jenkins; St Edmundsbury Cathedral, September 27The audience at St Edmunsbury Cathedral was extremely fortunate on Saturday night to have Karl Jenkins himself conducting his own music.

Stabat Mater, by Karl Jenkins; St Edmundsbury Cathedral, September 27

The audience at St Edmunsbury Cathedral was extremely fortunate on Saturday night to have Karl Jenkins himself conducting his own music. A contemporary classical composer, you will know his music from a range of adverts from British Airways to Ford Focus - the latter of which was the opening number of the concert.

His mass for peace, The Armed Man, has been performed 400 times in recent years, and two of its movements were performed in the first half: Sanctus, and, what can only be described as possibly one of the greatest classical music pieces written this century, Benedictus (both of which were conducted by John Gibbons). Sanctus started off a little on the fast side, but soon got into its stride. However, it's easy to be critical of live music - being so used to listening to CDs - but then that is the nature of live music - that it's not always perfect.

Benedictus was outstanding and very moving: subdued and beautiful in the beginning, then suddenly loud and dramatic - a completely sublime piece of music that takes you to a different place. The cellist was exceptional in his signature tune, playing with warmth and feeling.


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Also completing the first half was La Folia, written for marimba and strings, which was a lovely interplay between the instruments, with accents from the French horn. It was gentle, heart-felt and with moments of drama.

Jenkins calls upon a lot of spiritual and cultural sources, especially Christian and Arabic influences, which was evident in the main piece of the evening - Stabat Mater, conducted by Jenkins himself. This was based upon a 13th Century Roman Catholic poem: a meditation on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ's mother, during his crucifixion.

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Typical of Jenkins, he brings a multicultural, multi-faith dimension to the music, parts being sung not only in English, but Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Belinda Sykes provided the ethnic vocals, as well as the duduk (an Arabic recorder). Her incantations gave an authentic feel to the spiritually uplifting melodies, with her voice soaring like an eagle high up into the rafters of the cathedral.

Karl Jenkins can be seen to be at the pop end of the classical music spectrum; his music is very accessible, tuneful and spiritually moving. He is clearly one of the most important British, living composers with a wonderful combination of ethereal melodies, contemporary rhythms, and sense of drama - the crashing cymbals and persistent drum beat bringing the entire orchestra and choir to an ecstatic climax.

Stabat Mater is another important addition to Jenkins' already outstanding catalogue. An excellent evening, and it was also nice to see the composer staying behind to sign programmes and CDs for the eagerly awaiting throng of fans.

Patrice Edwards

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