Thu, 28 Nov 2019
Cecilia Consort: Sing My Tongue
at Douai Abbey, on Saturday, November 16
Review by Fiona Bennett
AS a music student, I found the first year music history course a little dry. It was the music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods and being someone who loves great big squishy tunes and lush harmonies, I struggled a little with the first couple of months’ content. We mostly read the scores and listened to recordings, so it was a real eye-opener to hear Janet Coxwell and The Cecilia Consort open their autumn concert with the Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin des Prez.
The tenor and bass sections began singing from the rear of the nave, moving a little closer to the altar during each verse of the Pange Lingua Chant (Anon) and the sopranos and altos processed on to the stage in silence. Josquin was thought to be the first master of polyphonic vocal writing and it is a challenging piece. Peppered with delicious open fifth intervals, polyphonic and homophonic styles of singing, fugal passages and some really funky 16th-century syncopation, it’s clear why the music copyists of the time would attribute music to him (in order to sell more copies) and it was some time before experts sorted the real Josquin wheat from the fake chaff in order to catalogue his work. The choir made a lovely full sound and with a little help from their resident accompanist Steve Bowey, held pitch well in between movements.
The Fauré Tantum Ergo gave us a lovely contrasting close to the first half and featured the choir’s soprano and alto sections, but it was Poulenc’s Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël that stole my heart. It’s hard to believe this largely self-educated composer was still alive when I was born and ever since hearing his Gloria in 1978, I have loved his music. The choir gave us dynamic
variation, shimmery soprano passages, sonorous bass lines and they really went to town with this marvellous composer’s cheeky harmonic changes and quirky rhythmic writing. Definitely my favourite piece of the evening.
James Whitbourn’s Missa Carolae was not familiar to me, but I soon began
picking out well-loved Christmas carols, including God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and it was lovely to see the choir
enjoying themselves in the run up to the festive season. The repetitive and yet, catchy Kyrie had us all wanting to join in and Steve’s organ accompaniment was enhanced by the playing of a lone piccolo (Samantha Moore) which made for an interesting and jolly combination. Lucy Crompton Reid’s soprano solo was a joy; a pure sound and beautifully controlled dynamics.
It was only November 16, but Janet and her choristers gave me that first festive flutter of the season. Thank you Cecilia Consort, it was a special evening all round.