Mass for Four Voices - Byrd
Hear My Prayer - Mendelssohn
Serenade to Music - Vaughan Williams
Funeral Music for the Death of Queen Mary - Purcell
Five Negro Spirituals - Tippett
Jubilate Deo - Britten
Review by Lawrence Tomlinson:
After days of wet and windy weather, the clouds parted, the wind was gone, and the sun shone, as the audience gathered in St Andrews Church to listen to a heart-warming concert of, largely, English music given by the Penrith Singers.
The evening began with a performance of Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices”. The four parts of the unaccompanied choir were so clear and secure, while there was an opportunity for eight choir members to sing as a chamber choir during parts of the Gloria.
As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mendelssohn, and as his music is such a part of our English musical heritage, it was fitting to hear, first, a performance of one of his preludes and fugues and then the much loved “Hear My Prayer”. The sound of the organ filled the Church as the fugue was carried forward in its rhythmic intensity. The audience could not fail to respond to such a consummate performance given by Ian Hare, who then continued in his accompanying role, as “Hear My Prayer” followed. Not to be sung this evening by boy soprano and choristers, to which we are so accustomed, but by soprano Emma Peaurt, and the mixed voices of Penrith Singers. And how well they brought out the anguished cry of the psalmist: “The wicked oppress me, ah where shall I fly?”, and then there was power and yet sensitivity in Emma’s rendering of, “O for the wings, for the wings of a dove”.
The first part of the concert closed with another much loved piece, “Serenade to Music” by Vaughan Williams. Composed originally, for 16 famous singers of the day, in this evening’s performance Emma Peaurt was joined by tenor, Simon Martindale, and choir members Phoebe Power, Jenny Stewart, Helen Thornley, Helen Graham and Margaret Nelson. In a setting of words from “The Merchant of Venice”, the soprano mirrored the sentiment of “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank,” while the choir responded in solos and together in “touches of sweet harmony”.
Part 2 began on a more sombre note as Purcell’s “Funeral Music for the death of Queen Mary” sounded on the organ as though cornets and trumpets were accompanying the steady walk of the funeral procession of 1695. The choir then sang settings of funeral sentences accompanied so quietly and closing with hymn like sonority
As Emma sang two songs, “A Last Year’s Rose” and “Love’s philosophy” by Roger Quilter, one realised how intimately both voice and piano must blend to create a complete performance. So thanks go to Rachel Carruthers for her equally vital role as pianist.
The five Spirituals from Tippett’s “a Child of our Time” were sung by the unaccompanied choir with soprano and tenor soloists, conveying so well all their variety of moods.
The evening’s performance closed with Britten’s setting of the “Jubilate”, and what better way to end than in joyful fashion. The light, jolly organ accompaniment almost has the last word, reminding us of Ian Hare’s indispensable contribution to the evening. It was good also to have Emma Peaurt singing again in Penrith. The success of the evening was due to the dedicated work of conductor, Colin Marston. Speaking to a choir member, they said how much they had enjoyed rehearsing and performing this music. Yes, and how much we, the audience, appreciated their performance.