A Mystical Journey
16 June 2007
The Wordsworth Singers' reputation for imaginative programming and high artistic standards was reinforced by last Saturday's concert of music by John Joubert, Samuel Barber and Vaughan Williams. The former's Four Motets were not the easiest pieces with which to begin, but from the outset it was obvious that this fine chamber choir had the measure of Joubert's intricate choral writing, dividing at times into as many as ten different parts without loss of clarity or pitch, and admirably conveying the religious intensity of the music. Lines from The Youth of Man was given a passionate and committed performance despite a few uncertain notes, whilst in the Three Portraits the choir sang with humour, tenderness and exuberance as the mood of each song demanded. The solo contributions of both Fiona Weakley and Ian Wright in all of the above-mentioned works were consistently distinguished, and conductor Michael Hancock gave clear and energetic direction throughout the concert.
A particular highlight of the evening was baritone Christopher Underwood's compelling performance from the pulpit of Cycle for Declamation, a setting of three extracts from John Donne's Meditations by another South African composer, Priaulx Rainier. In Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs Mr Underwood seemed ill at ease, although the organ accompaniment provided by Charles Harrison, who had earlier in the programme displayed his formidable technique in two of Dupré's Preludes and Fugues, was a source of delight. Before that the old Gaelic poetry from which Barber's Reincarnations is derived found a particular resonance with the choir, all of whose members seemed to be singing from the heart.