Review of Cambridge Voices in Ely Cathedral on Monday 27th August 2012.

ADeC, Ian de Massini, Cambridge Voices and The Orchestra of the Age of Reason (directed by Peter Britton) triumphed again. To a packed Lady Chapel, they presented a highly energized performance of Bach’s well-known Mass in B Minor. As one would expect with Ian, there was never a dull moment. This was no ordinary performance. A work that at first seemed so familiar was invigourated wih unique verve and delight as the music positively come alive, keeping the listeners spellbound throughout the performance. Ian’s enthusiasm, his empathy with the inner working so Bach’s composition and messages and his capacity to inspire created a glorious experience never to be forgotten.

The highlights were when the choir and orchestra sang in full reign, especially in the opening and third Kyri e, Cum Sancto Spiritu (Prelude and Fugue) in part two, Credo 1(Fugue)  in part three and Sanctus (Fantasia) in Part 4.   The immediate impact of these pieces sent shivers down the spine.

It is amazing how these wonderful musicians could fill the Lady Chapel (and its renowned delayed echo) with exquisitely-shaped lines that interwove again and again and yet remained clear in a full, rich ‘unmuddied’ texture. The acoustic qualities of the Lady Chapel were wonderfully harnessed: every detail carefully considered. Changes of timing, mood and texture were carefully and smoothly controlled and from the very opening when the choir surrounded us, we were made to feel centre-stage, at the core of the music.

One of the most moving items was very early into the evening when Ian, (Countertenor), Nick Nightingale (Tenor) and Chris Newlands (Bass) sang ‘Homage to Cambridge Voices’ – Ian’s special arrangement of the opening to Byrd’s Mass for 3 Voices. It was indeed a splendid way to remember past members and the 25th anniversary of the choir. This was a very personal journey for us as listeners as it must have been for Ian and these fine musicians. Ian’s description in the programme of his visit to France that initiated the beginning of this amazing choir, gave insight into how his infectious love of music and his unbridled talent has inspired some of the greatest music to be heard in the Lady Chapel.

Of the solos, most notable contributions were Philippa Gardner (contralto) opening the concert with the Plainsong: Requiem aeternum, the trio of Ian, Nick Nightingale and Chris Newlands, Lucy Taylor (mezzo-soprano) singing Que sedes in part two, Josephine Stephenson (soprano) singing Hymn to the Virgin Mary: – A maiden most gentle in part 3 Belinda Hambling-Boulton (soprano) singing Agnus Dei in part four and, of course, the trio at the beginning.

The orchestra excelled itself, its authentic sound the result of the combined talent of performers who were experts in their field with special contributions from the solo violin, trumpets and oboe d’amore.

This was a magnificent event and a very special celebration unique never to be forgotten.




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