Review of Spem in Alium, 23rd March 2024

Review of Spem in Alium, 23rd March 2024
Type of post: Press article
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Status: Archived
Date Posted: Mon, 25 Mar 2024

Chapel of St Cross, WinchesterA concert mounted by the Southern Voices chamber choir was suffused with history. It took place in the 12th-century Chapel of St Cross, included choral works from the early 16th century to the present day, featured solo lute music of the Renaissance and celebrated the 40th anniversary of the choir’s formation in Winchester. A packed church witnessed stylish, well-prepared a cappella singing from voices divided mainly between five and eight parts. This meant that with just over thirty regular choir members there would always be the risk of individual voices being exposed or over-prominent. But here the blend and balance were remarkably assured. Part 2 began with the choir surrounding its audience in Gorecki’s ‘Totus tuus’ of 1987 with a thrillingly confident full entry. It was perhaps in the modern repertoire where the voices best demonstrated a full dynamic range, rhythmic vigour and secure tuning of cluster chords.

The latter included Eric Whitacre’s atmospheric ‘Sainte-Chapelle’ in six parts and a brilliantly scored eight-part ‘Splendid Jewel’ by another American composer, Stephen Paulus. Variety of textures and use of one solo voice coloured this beautiful Marian motet expertly and convincingly delivered by the choir. Sacred pieces by Tallis and Byrd were joined by the seven-voice ‘Ego flos campi’ by early 16th century Clemens non Papa and throughout, long sinuous lines were sustained by the singers assisted by the calm but clear direction of conductor Jamal Sutton.

This anniversary celebration concluded by drawing together additional friends and choir alumni to create an almost 80-strong body of singers, again surrounding the listeners, for Tallis’s awesome 40-part motet ‘Spem in alium’. Being in the midst of a wall of ‘wrap-around’ sound is a special treat for an audience and this performance did not disappoint. Confident voices were enhanced by the famous acoustic of this place and Southern Voices are to be congratulated for organizing such a logistical challenge!

By dramatic contrast the intimacy of Pat Glynn’s delicate and authentic lute-playing demanded - and gained - the rapt attention of the capacity audience whilst transporting it to a bygone age.

-- Derek Beck