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Beware the Armed Man

St George's Church, Kendal
9 February 2019

The Wordsworth Singers came to town and proved to be a wonderful choir under their conductor Mark Hindley.

They presented a challenging and innovative programme of works pleading for peace. Two of the works were set against a background of the growing threat from Nazism: the Five Spirituals by Tippett, and Poulenc’s Un soir de neige.  There was also a new work by Savourna Stevenson about St Magnus, the patron saint of Orkney and his refusal to take part in violence, and the Missa L’homme armé by Morales. A programme containing powerful lyrics and evocative imagery of peace in times of conflict

The performance of the Morales Mass had beautiful shaped lines. The choir’s great sense of the interplay of parts, such as in the Sanctus, was wonderful. There were times when there was an imbalance between the parts but a stunning performance nevertheless.

Being a small choir, performing the Negro Spirituals allowed them to present a performance of immense clarity and flexibility.  This was as evident in the softer lyrical movements such as Deep River,  as in the fierier rhythmic movements such as Nobody Knows.

The cold church provided a wonderful backdrop for the desolate bleak snowy landscape of Poulenc’s  Un soir de neige. This highly chromatic work showed off the choir’s ability to perform such a challenging work but I wasn’t sure whether, at times, they captured the sense of the wintery journey of despair and the snowy landscape.

Another aspect of this accomplished choir is their excellent diction which was captured in their telling the story of St Magnus in this English premiere of Magnus by Savourna Stevenson

Please come back to Kendal and bring with you Savourna Stevenson who performed two stunning pieces on the Scottish folk harp. The different timbres she created such as those from South America in Mexican Monterey, and the speed of changing keys using the levers, was dazzling.

Philip Burton