“Gloria!” was a new departure. This exciting concert, featuring a variety of challenging contemporary choral music, marked the first time Cantorum has performed works composed especially for choir and substantial brass ensemble.
We were extremely fortunate to host the thirteen virtuosi of Sounding Brass, including their two excellent percussionists, who were fully employed—along with chamber organist (our Asst. Director, Jozef Janik)—in the evening’s final item, John Rutter’s thrilling Gloria. The piece is in three movements, each based on an element extracted from the traditional Latin mass. Rutter takes an original Gregorian chant for his tonal basis and shakes it into powerful forms that are handed between the voices and brass in waves of sheer intensity. As he says himself, we move between the exalted, the devotional and the jubilant by turns.
The other large scale item on the programme for choir and brass was Bob Chilcott’s little known Jubilate. This is something of a ‘find’, in our opinion. There are six movements, all of extremely varied character, on the theme of rejoicing. Special mention must be made of Julia Millard’s fine extended soprano solo in the second section.
Sounding Brass were also given a chance to shine in a purely instrumental item: Holst’s First Suite for Military Band. This powerful and at times rousing piece combines snatches of English folk music with sonorous brass textures and dazzling fanfares, which were much appreciated by the evening’s substantial audience.
The choir, too, dazzled with three demanding a cappella items: Rutter’s Cantate Domino and A Prayer of Saint Patrick in the first half and Tippett’s Dance, Clarion Air to open the second. This intricate madrigal, composed for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, looks both backward to the first Elizabethan era and forward to the modernity of the mid-20th century. It’s sparkling evocation of the air moving above the sea around the British Isles made it a real joy to sing. And, we hope, to hear.