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Come ye sons of art; Celestial Music; Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day (1692)








Grayston Burgess conductor

Amy Moore soprano
David Gould countertenor
David Allsopp countertenor
James Geer tenor
Nicholas Bewes tenor
Ben Davies baritone
Stephen Varcoe bass

An inspiriting evening which filled St John's to celebrate Saint Cecilia and Grayston Burgess, founder/director of the Purcell Consort of Voices and leading counter-tenor of a generation before they became two-a-penny (Gramophone this month carries a lament that counter-tenors have ousted low women's voices !).

The performances of three great Odes of Purcell were scrupulously prepared, and for some of us his music consistently gives greater satisfaction than that of the presently so popular adopted-Englishman Handel. The soloists were well balanced and each took solos with distinction, Amy Moore covering also for an indisposed Katherine Manley.

The stylish period orchestra was enhanced by a continuo group that looked good with their specially chosen instruments, which blended and carried well at St John's. One small regret; no texts were supplied. Whereas Purcell cognoscenti will have been familiar with Come ye sons of art away and with Hail Bright Cecilia, those of the lesser known Celestial Music comprise "the most exalted sets of verses ever exalted by Purcell's music", so we were tantalisingy told... They can be found on the delectable Hyperion/King's Consort's The Complete Odes.

The great 1692 Ode for St Cecilia has a particular nostalgic resonance for us; Grayston Burgess coached my son Simon, then a treble, for his solos on the famous McKerras LP recording from the '60s, which happily is still available on CD and boasts, too, the participation of the already well established Tiffin Boys Choir, which for half a century has been one of the few state school choirs to have been continually at the forefront of the choral music scene in Britain.

Peter Grahame Woolf