Twilight and Evening Star
St Michael's Church, Stanwix
19 October 2002
On Saturday, St Michael's Church in Stanwix was host to a world premiere. The Wordsworth Singers directed by Michael Hancock presented the first performance of Songs of the Night by Harold East.
The work is a darkly coloured setting of four poems that move from the haunted nights of childhood to the mysterious love of darkness and dreams and then emerges into the light of dawn as the shadows fly away. The moody darkness and the strong contrasts that the Singers conveyed must have pleased the composer, who was present.
There was an equally sensitive presentation of Thomas Pitfield's Night Music. The night begins with the eerie, noiseless trample of the horse's hooves beneath the glimm'ring moon, and ends in the easeful velvet walks of sleep. The performance drew out all the work's delicate impressionism.
The final work of the evening was Fauré's Requiem. The mood of darkness and fear and comfort had already been established by the preceding music, but, as the choir petitioned for eternal rest, we were made to feel the darkness of the abyss.
Georgina Harland sang the Pie Jesu with heartfelt tenderness and James Johnson made a profound appeal for salvation on the day of judgement. The choir concluded with the glorious light of the In Paradisum.
This was a concert that moved from darkness to light. Michael Hancock, with Charles Harrison on the organ, led the choir with a simplicity, sincerity and courage that made for a profound musical and spiritual experience.