This report mixes early, contemporary and 'world' music, heard during the same week in the same London church. It is hoped that specialist visitors to Musical Pointers will not thereby be irritated, and that others may find the juxtaposition interesting, epitomising as it does the variety which is intrinsic to the Spitalfields Festival? Comments welcomed, please!
of St John's College, Cambridge at Shoreditch Church
Spitalfields Festival came truly to life for us with the wonderful St John's, Cambridge concert for which we had to hurry from Holborn to Shoreditch after the inaugural concert of the City of London Festival; the festival season is now in full swing! The acoustics of Shoreditch Church proved ideal for this music, and the evident musicianship of the boys was a pleasure to watch as well as to hear. Full words were supplied and there was good light to read them!
4 part Mass was interspersed with delectable organ interludes -
it would never have been sung straight through in his time.
East to West Shoreditch Church 24th June
of Bali and Java in Europe
9.00 Gamelan Sekar Tunjung
The Continuum Ensemble offered a 'concept concert' inspired by the RCM's acquisition of a set of Javanese gamelan instruments which were on display later in the evening; gamelan-inspired items of music by western composers illuminated each other to cumulative satisfaction.
John Rea's arrangement of Vivier sounded close to the real thing. Douglas Finch played pieces by Debussy and Ligeti which demonstrated their indebtedness to the same model. Lou Harrison's Violin Concerto with an orchestra of five percussionists playing assembled and specially constructed instruments in which he had been occupied with Cage was more satisfying in its gamelan simulation than in knowing what to do with the violin solo part, which remained too close to conventional western concerto models; an intriguing, but ultimately unsatisfying, hybrid. A decade on, Harrison's Music for Violin & Various Instruments - European, Asian & African solves the problems he was setting himself admirably.
McPhee was the real pioneer in this genre, and his 2 movements from Ceremonial Balinese Music glowed in Philip Headlam's arrangements for piano, harp and vibraphone.
Best of all was José Evangelista's work of 1986, having its belated British premiere with the Spanish/Canadian composer present [pict above]. He thrives on setting limits and most of his music is elaborated monody, Merapi suggested by a volcano obscured by fog and cloud, with its melodic skeleton 'constantly veiled in ornamentation and changes of instruments and register'. A minor masterpiece, and a satisfying end to a great realisation of an intriguing idea; there is a germ of a good thematic CD or DVD here.
José Evangelista's Merapi is available from Canadian Music Centre on CHROMA Arraymusic ART 004and worth trying to find is a delectable collection of music by this always imaginative monodist on Salabert Actuels SCD9102.
of New College Oxford Edward Higginbottom conductor,
at Shoreditch Church 26 June 2003
They have pioneered this rare 16 C & 17 C French repertoire, which is distinguished by inventive design, florid contrapuntal writing and varied management of the vocal forces. Claude Le Jeune (c.1528-1600) was noted for embracing of musique mesunJe (in which the rhythm patterns of the music derive from the accent patterns of the poetic text set - q.v Janacek!) and his Mass for its flexible handling of the available vocal groupings, typically reinforcing images in the text (which we could follow at Shoreditch, c.p. the arrangments for Trinity Baroque's presentation of Le Jeune's music at Wilton's).
The splendid exuberance of the 17 C Henri Dumont (1610-84)
brought the first half to a dazzling close with his Magnificat for
two choirs and soloists, sometimes in as many as ten polyphonic
parts; my only slight reservation was that the organ interludes
were less colourful in the chosen registration than the voices.
The tone I had sought did come in some pieces by Titelouze which
framed Poulenc's Salve Regina interposed in the middle of
Le Jeune's Mass; for encore a Geoffrey Bush song represented British
choral music and demonstrated the versatility of this choir, which
has made some 70 CDs.
College choirs evolve more rapidly than symphony orchestras.
Checking the personnel listed, it is interesting to see that there
is in the present choir only one alto survivor from the 1996 vintage
and, of the Higginbottom dynasty, treble Orlando has been succeeded
© Peter Grahame Woolf