Three Choirs Festival
The Great and Wide Sea – Three Choirs Festival
Worcester Baptist Church 24th July 2017
Opus Anglicanum – Choral Works with Narrator:
Lynne Plowman b.1969 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Sally Beamish b.1956 Sea Psalm Alexander Campkin b.1984 ‘by still waters’
Review: David & Paul Gray
A Modern Sequence of Words and Music
Opus Anglicanum is a quintet of first-rate unaccompanied male singers with narrator, who gave a fine performance of one of their remarkable ‘Sequences’ of words and music.
Audiences will know the mellifluous voice of narrator Zeb Soanes well from BBC radio, and he brought the text of Coleridge’s 1798 epoch-making poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to life with terrific poise, elegance and occasional humour. The poem was interspersed with a set of twelve compositional miniatures composed by Lynne Plowman, who was present in the audience to take rightful applause.
The miniatures explored a wide range of contemporary extended vocal techniques, ranging from both loose and dense chord clusters, to ethereal textures and timbres, and spoken, sprechstimme-like effects. The ability of the singers to pitch their notes – often within extremely challenging circumstances, and with such accuracy and surety of technique – was truly magical.
Unlike The Rime, where singers don’t sing simultaneously with the narration, Sally Beamish’s Sea Psalm allowed for this overlay. At times one wondered if this overlaying obscured either the beauty of the narrated words or the integrity of the musical setting? However, the piece worked as a whole, and the inclusion of a hymn the audience could join in with, together with a final singing of a ‘Memorial’ in the form of the plainsong Lux aeterna luceat eis, was a pleasing and moving touch.
Similarly, the final pieces in the concert – a short setting of ‘by still waters’ by the poet Maria Willis (d.1908), followed by the plainsong In Paradisum, made for a beautiful, highly apt conclusion to this excellent sequence of words and music. How very refreshing to hear extended pieces of music by contemporary women composers.
Opus Anglicanum Stephen Burrows countertenor John Bowen tenor David de Winter tenor Roland Robertson baritone, director John Rowlands-Pritchard bass
Zeb Soanes narrator