Review: The Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, Snape Maltings, October 16

St Paul's cathedral choir who performed at Snape Maltings over the weekend

St Paul's cathedral choir who performed at Snape Maltings over the weekend - Credit: Archant

There has been a choir at St Paul’s Cathedral for over 900 years and its primary purpose is to sing at the daily services. The choir consists of twenty-eight boys and twelve professional male singers (Vicars Choral). Concerts are sometimes given outside London and on this occasion it was in aid of the British Red Cross and East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

The evening opened with Zadock the Priest, one of the most popular and brilliant of all choral works. Organist Peter Holder gave an impeccable build up to the choir entry and there was an infectious rhythmic drive in the singing.

Britten’s Friday Afternoons occupied a quite different sound world but with equally compelling results. The moods ranged from cheerful and rustic through gentle and reflective to the deeply felt and the bright articulation and clarity of diction made for compelling listening. Holst’s Evening Watch, a setting from Henry Vaughan is a remarkable dialogue between Body (tenor and alto soloists) and Soul (full ensemble) with considerable dissonance and harmonic tension.

The first half concluded with a resonant performance of Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus, the choir spread around the hall and combining in a joyous and uplifting performance. Conductor Andrew Carwood conducted with exemplary clarity and authority.

The second half explored music from the English Cathedral repertoire and Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn sounded suitably sumptuous and Victorian. A very different work was Mark Blatchly’s arrangement of For the Fallen, an elegant and restrained elegy for boys voices, organ and trumpet. John Joubert, perhaps best known for his carol Torches, sets words by George Herbert in his energetic, driving, Antiphons and this was nicely balanced by calm of Geoffrey Burgon’s Nunc Dimmitis, Ray Simmons displaying refined elegance on his trumpet.


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Organist Peter Holder deserved his moment in the sun and it was a particularly attractive Scherzetto by Percy Whitlock, elegant, whimsical and played with dexterity and delicacy. John Tavener’s Song for Athene was beautifully done, the sinuous melody emerging from the depths.

Parry’s I was Glad seemed an appropriate finale but for some reason it did not quite catch fire; nevertheless this was an excellent and enjoyable concert performed to a full and appreciative audience.

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Gareth Jones

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