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Left feeling blessed by beautiful concert

“Beautiful, just beautiful” sums up the concert put on by the Bermuda Chamber Choir this week.

Season of Passion offered a varied and interesting selection of music by contemporary composers for an age-old tradition: choral evensong in the Lenten season.

There was also a reprise of the special music commissioned for the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton which the choir performed at the intituling service of Their Majesties Chappell, St Peter's Church on March 18.

The quality of sound produced by the choir was noteworthy. The blending had a rich and cohesive character that is perfect for Rutter and also very unusual to achieve with an amateur group. Accompanying the choir were Charles Callahan on organ, Oliver Grant on piano, and Shelton Bean on timpani.

The programme opened with John Rutter's 'This is the day', composed for the Royal Wedding. It featured a gentle, rolling melody that suggested the dawn of a new and glorious day, with beautiful harmonies and interesting tonal complexities.

To fulfil the requirements of evensong, 'Magnificat' and 'Nunc Dimittis' from 'Truro' by Bermuda-born Gabriel Jackson were chosen. Though a noted modern composer, Jackson, as director Rob Campbell pointed out in his introduction, wrote these two pieces in a style similar to the music sung when St Peter's church was first designated Their Majesties' Chappell almost 400 years ago. Within the composition there are echoes of plainchant, with little grace notes embroidering the melody in an interesting way. The rich warm tones of the choir were accompanied by the cold, clear notes of the piano played expressively by Mr Grant.

An exquisite piano-organ duet arrangement of 'Amazing Grace' provided an instrumental interlude with the piano part rippling like a brook over the deep, swelling organ part.

The centrepiece of the programme was Rutter's 'Requiem', introduced by Mr Campbell as one of the best known compositions of contemporary sacred music. The whole range of human emotion associated with Christ's passion was reflected exactly in the colouration of the seven movements. It began with the strange, doom-laden passages of the opening 'Requiem Aeternam' where the deep rumbling notes of the timpani were taken up by the basses before the piece ended with the light, hopeful Kyrie.

The second movement, 'Out of the Deep', also opened with dark, sombre tones and contained funereal passages which contrasted with the light, spiritual 'Pie Jesu'. The gentle, pretty 'Pie Jesu' was beautifully sung by soprano Ruth Stovell and was followed by the bright, joyous 'Sanctus' with passages reminiscent of a carillon and 'hosannas' like choral fanfares. The ominous, dirgeful opening bars of 'Agnus Dei', punctuated by the ponderous beat of the timpani, expressed forcefully the sense of sacrifice before the piece developed into the radiant, hopeful phrasing accompanying the words “I am the resurrection”.

'The Lord is my Shepherd' was introduced with pan pipes on the organ and a rippling stream of piano notes taken up by the sopranos and developed into an expression of hope in even the darkest days. The 'Requiem' ended with the bright, beautiful 'Lux Aeterna', soprano Joanna Sherratt-Wyer adding emotional depth to the solo passages.

The evening closed with Rutter's well-known benediction, the serene and flowing 'The Lord bless you and keep you', and we did indeed feel that we had been blessed by this lovely music.

The concert was performed at Wesley Methodist Church last night and Tuesday.

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Published March 29, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 29, 2012 at 9:10 am)

Left feeling blessed by beautiful concert

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