Date: Saturday 25th March, 2017
Venue: Ely Cathedral Presbytery
Programme: War & Peace
Featuring: Ely Consort, Conductor ~ Matthew Rudd, Piano ~ Charlie Penn & Soprano ~ Clare Lloyd-Griffiths
The magnificent reredos at the east end of Ely Cathedral, designed by Gilbert Scott and depicting the last days of Christ’s life, was a fitting backdrop to Ely Consort’s latest concert, War and Peace.
The first half of the evening explored the responses of twentieth- and twenty-first-century composers to warfare and violence. It began with a rapt performance of Tippett’s five spirituals of A Child of our Time, a piece inspired by the news of Kristallnacht. The performance was electrifying, with the choir at its very best, rhythmically vital in Nobody knows, and singing with great sensitivity and beauty of tone in Steal away and Deep river, spirituals borne out of oppression.
A strong solo quartet of Clare Lloyd-Griffiths, Kathryn Faulkner, Martin Kenward and John Simmons added to the glory of this performance.
The programme also found room for less familiar music. Rudolf Mauersberger’s Wie liege die Stadt so wüst was particularly striking. Mauersberger lived and worked in Dresden and he set these words from the Book of Lamentations as a cry of anguish at the destruction of his city at the hands of allied bombers in 1945. The choir captured the intensity of the piece, the sadness and mourning as well as the anger and perhaps a glimmer of hope for the future.
In the second half, the choir was joined by a small group of instrumentalists for a moving performance of John Rutter’s Requiem. While the piece shows its influences – the setting of Out of the Deep has strong echoes of Howells and the structure of the piece is reminiscent of Fauré’s Requiem – Rutter’s personality comes out in the melodic writing.
Soprano Clare Lloyd-Griffiths sang the soloist’s stratospheric lines with great poise and beauty while oboist Rose Hilder made a lovely contribution to the setting of The Lord is My Shepherd. The Requiem starts with a steady sombre timpani beat. At the end of the final movement – a Lux aeterna sung by the choir with limpid beauty – it returns. As the sound of the voices floated up into the vaults, the sound of the beating timpani emerged, the human heart, maybe, or the passing of time, reminding us all of our mortality.