Cathedral Crypt ambience captured by Chamber Choir: review

Second-year International Business student Matthew Bamford reviews last week’s Crypt Concert.
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The crypt of Canterbury Cathedral is an incredibly special and unique performance space. This intimate venue was host to the University of Kent Chamber Choir, conducted by Dan Harding and Steph Richardson.

The aim of the concert was to explore a whole day from the rise of the sun right the way through until midnight. Using a blend of sacred and secular pieces the programme consisted of madrigals, part-songs, motets and two pieces for solo piano.

Image credit: Robert Berry

From the first words of the plainsong Salve festa dies, I knew that I was in for a very enjoyable evening.  This set the mood for the first section of the concert. Eric Barnum’s Dawn followed; the beginning of the piece using an incredibly simple harmonic structure. However at the end of the piece there was an interesting section where each of the sopranos sang an individual note of the scale. The composer’s idea here was to ‘create a golden light’. I think it is fair to say that this was most definitely captured.

My next highlight was the solo piano piece Un Sospiro. One of Liszt’z concert studies was expertly handled by second year music scholar Susan Li. The piece was received with rapturous applause after Li really brought out the richness of the piece.

Pianist Susan Li in rehearsal

As the day began to draw to a close, there was time for some playful madrigal singing before bed. Tutto lo di, a lively and fun piece written by Orlando di Lassus was intelligently sung by the choir. Despite the choir wanting to ‘play all day’, the long day did have to draw to a close with a beautiful rendition of this piece by Sullivan, conducted by Steph Richardson.

After twenty minutes in which  to dwell on the first half, carrying a zebra print handbag (thanks Sophie!), the second half opened with the beautiful Sleep, Wayward Thoughts. The mood of the concert then headed to a more relaxed state as we heard In Stiller Nacht by Brahms. Sung in German, this piece focused on exploring the timelessness of night. This was captured well by the rhythmic sense of the choir and really was a very relaxing piece.

We were treated to another lovely piano solo, Chopin’s Nocturne in F Minor,’again received by the audience with excellent applause.

The concert ended with Eric Whitacre’s Sleep, which really is full of colour. This contemporary piece was delivered to an outstanding standard which left the audience wanted more (although I’m sure nobody was expecting the encore!).

We all thought it was over, until we had the pleasure of Harding’s arrangement of ‘Moondance’ by the legend that is Van Morrison. A completely contrasting piece to hear in the context of the rest of the programme, although everybody thoroughly enjoyed it and if like me, carried on singing it for the whole weekend.

Thank you to Dan Harding, Steph Richardson, Susan Li and The University Chamber Choir for a fantastic Friday evening; I’m looking forward to the next concert on March 30th.

One more Moondance...Image credit: Robert Berry

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