Tag Archives: Skempton

Brave new world

The Cecilian Choir has always been something of a playground for experimenting with contemporary choral music, and this term we’ve been finding our feet with a selection of modern pieces that really challenges us.

Ubi caritas, in a setting by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, is full of exotic harmonies, still retaining something of its original plainchant ancestry at the start before blossoming into luminous colours as the piece begins to unfold;


Alongside this, the Choir is drawing out the rich dissonances in Latvian composer Arturs Maskat’s Lugums Naktij (Prayer to the Night); additionally, we’ve recently begun working on Indian Prayer at Evening, the third of ‘Three Native American Songs’ by the young British composer, Toby Nelms, with swinging, prairie-filled open-fifths and a suitably dusky tonal palette. We started our contemporary odyssey with the Hymn to the Dormition of the Mother of God by the late Sir John Tavener back in October, which will add an element of tribute to the choir’s concert in April.

This choir excels at picking up new music, and for next term I’ve lined up some pieces by Howard Skempton as well. The backbone of the programme is something rather less modern – movements from Hassler’s Missa super Dixit Maria, written somewhat earlier in 1599, and a piece I’ve wanted to do for a long while; the intention is to weave the contemporary pieces amongst the movements of the mass.

Before then, the Choir will be performing a clutch of carols at next Wednesday’s end of term, festive ‘Watch This Space’ event on the foyer-stage. But it’s in the contemporary music that the choir is particularly strong; next term’s concert will be a treat.

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All Wye on the night: Chamber Choir review

First-year student Matt Bamford reviews on-line last Friday’s Chamber Choir concert over on ‘Music Matters,’ as the choir brought the term’s music-making activities to a triumphant conclusion in a performance at Wye Parish Church.

There was great assurance about their performance: terrific craft, subtlely, wit and elegance – like a fine wine, the Choir has continued to mature this term in the period since the Cathedral Crypt Concert, and they delivered a concert full of confidence, polish and character. The madrigals danced with fitting elegance and poise, the Macmillan blossomed off the page, the Skempton revelled in its sonorous yet subtle colours, and the jazz piece demonstrated the close-harmony singing is another of the group’s strengths, aided by some terrific scat improvisation from Steph Richardson.

Thanks to both the Chamber and Cecilian Choirs for all their hard work and commitment across the course of this term, it has resulted in some fine performing and a terrific demonstration of the quality of music-making at the University. There’s more to come next term: watch this space!