“blazing conviction” – review of Parry and MacMillan at Cheltenham Music Festival

“In January 2015 I attended a concert in Birmingham at which Ex Cathedra gave the world premiere of James MacMillan’s Seven Angels, a work commissioned by them. I was deeply impressed by the new piece and so when I discovered that the Cheltenham Music Festival had invited Jeffrey Skidmore and his colleagues to perform it the date was inked into my diary as a ‘must attend’…

“For me the highlight of the first half was Blest Pair of Sirens. It’s a magnificent piece and here it received a very fine performance. Alexander Mason brought urgency to the organ introduction and this urgency was continued when the choir entered – though by ‘urgency’ I don’t mean to suggest that the pace was too swift. Jeffrey Skidmore ensured that the performance was dynamic – there was no fear of Victorian stuffiness here. However, the memorable melody for ‘O, may we soon again renew that song’ was rightly given a proper degree of expansiveness – the sopranos revelled in this tune as did the tenors a few moments later. The long fugal passage leading to the magisterial conclusion was impressively built…

“Music that was often – but not always – grittier formed the second half…. Once again MacMillan’s vocal writing made a huge impression… I would imagine that the demands made upon the singers are ferocious at times but the chorus and soloists sang the work with blazing conviction.

“There was a long silence after the music had ended as the audience absorbed what they had heard. I’m delighted to report that this complex, challenging score and the expert and highly committed performance rightly received a very warm reception.

Seven Angels is a visionary score and I was delighted to hear it again… London audiences will get an opportunity to hear this important work for the first time on October 15, 2016 when Ex Cathedra performs Seven Angels at St Giles, Cripplegate.”

Read the full www.seenandheard-international.com review.

Posted in Reviews
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