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  Palatinate Voices earn standing ovation for world premier  Timbo at 13:43 on 02 July 2008

THE SERIES of concerts to celebrate the bicentenary of Ushaw College continued on Saturday, May 17 with a marvellous concert given by the leading Durham chamber choir, Palatinate Voices, conducted by Keith Wright. Palatinate Voices was formed in 1997 to bring together singers from the University of Durham, the Cathedral and the wider region.

The first half of the programme was of music by two 16th Century Spanish composers, Tomas Luis de Victoria and Francisco Guerrero. This was followed by the five Spirituals from A Child of Our Time by Michael Tippet .The a cappella singing sounded magnificent in the great acoustic of St Cuthbert’s chapel.

The second half of the concert was the world premiere of The Risen Christ, composed by Ushaw’s own Director of Music, Timothy Craig Harrison. This work, which lasted some 30 minutes, was inspired by the work of local sculptor Fenwick Lawson, whose sculptures are being exhibited in Ushaw College. It sets texts associated with Holy Week, and is scored for choir and semi chorus, with a virtuoso percussion part played brilliantly by Philip Watson.

This was a unique experience. The choir began the piece in the antechapel and gradually processed through the chapel, finally reaching the sanctuary by the end of the work. The audience was truly immersed in the music as the singers stood next to the pews to sing, clustered in a series of tableaux round each of the sculptures in turn.

The remarkable sculptures were there, the sculptor and composer were present, and the music was brought to life in a vibrant and committed performance. As the choir finally processed out of St Cuthbert’s, singing the glorious Alleluia for Christ’s resurrection, individual voices could be heard as the singers passed by the wrapt members of the audience, reminding me that so much of the joy of this work lay in the unique way it brought together the talents of so many individuals. As The Risen Christ ended, the audience rose to its feet in a standing ovation and not a few tears were wiped away.

Fr Philip Gillespie

Northern Cross NEWS FEATURES
Sunday, 1 June 2008