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  London Festival of Contemporary Church Music  red5 at 15:36 on 13 May 2007

The opening concert of this central London festival featured, as it says on the tin, contemporary church music. Although, just as the brand that uses the afore-mentioned slogan doesn't do what it says on the tin, nor did this concert; we, some mght say thankfully, were also treated to some Scarlatti and, not so thankfully, a very odd organ piece whose only relation to sacred music appears to be that organs traditionally live in churches!!

The concert, given by a young looking (and sometimes sounding) Cambridge college chapel choir, featured a number of first concert performances and a variety of texts ranging from the standard Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to the beautiful poetry used in Richard Causton's Jesu, sweete sonne dear.

Of the 9 contemporary works performed three were worthy of note and, in my opinion, worthy of being filtered into services throughout Christendom. The first is 'Psalm' by Eskil Hemberg. In this work the choir was divided into two equally voiced groups, one singing a Swedish poem entitled 'Psalm' and the other singing a disjointed version of the final chorale from Bach's St John Passion. The juxtaposition of a rather jolly and dance like Swedish song with the Bach was very enjoyable. You might think that the continual breaking up of words like very into ve - r - y may become tedious but it was actually quite the opposite. The delayed gratification of the listeners expectations makes this a succesful piece.

Also succesful was Robin Holloway's setting of the 'Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis' which was commissioned by Winchester Cathedral. Despite the vast number of models for this text (Howells, Stanford et. al) Holloway has written a magnificent (no pun intended) setting. It's typical Holloway but with some great moments such as the suddenly simple setting of 'humble' after a section of fully fledged polyphony. The final gloria is also very strong with beatifully thought through harmony and part writing. The organ part is also worthy of note.

However, the gem in the concert was Richard Causton's 'Jesu, Sweete Sonne Dear'. The range of vocal colour and contrast was simply stunning as were the harmonic progressions. This was one of the most striking aspects of the piece, so many pieces in the concert struggled to find harmonic direction without tonality but Causton's work was always clear and logical. The only problem with the work was that three singers, who are supposed to be seperated from the choir, were not sufficiently seperated in this performance (although this is obviously not Causton's fault).

Overall it was an enjoyable concert but, aside from the works I have described it left me feeling a little depressed about the future of contemporary music in the church rather than uplifted and I'm sure that isn't the festival's aim!

  Re: London Festival of Contemporary Church Music  KPL at 22:56 on 08 February 2009

Some time has passed since this report.
However, in the hope that you are still in touch on this website, might you find Eulogy Cantata to your liking?

No actual singers in a church setting, but sit back and imagine.....and note the words clearly displayed as they appear on screen...

And if not, perhaps others might listen and decide to perform the piece for the next festival.....
Eulogy Cantata