Thursday 20 September 2012

Gabrieli - Elijah launch

Gabrieli Consort and Players
Last night, the Gabrieli Consort and Players held an event to celebrate the release of their new CD of Mendelssohn's Elijah on Paul McCreesh's Winged Lion label (see my review). There was a short illuminating video about the making of the recording (see it here on Vimeo), a talk from Paul McCreesh and some live entertainment. The video was fascinating, making clear just quite how many performers there were. Whilst the core of the choir was made up of singers from Gabriel and the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir, around half the total were young singers from choirs with which Paul McCreesh and Gabrieli have started to develop a relationship.

The young singers were not there just for the experience, they worked hard and learned from the professional singers singing next to them, and participated fully in the rather gruelling recording schedule and contributed strongly to the overall project. Paul McCreesh mentioned how transformative the effect of participation had been on some of the young singers who had not been previously been exposed to much classical music. The Gabrieli Young Singers Scheme is relatively new, but was started by McCreesh because he feels strongly about giving opportunities top young people from all backgrounds.

McCreesh's next recording project is to record Britten's War Requiem in January 2012 with Gabrieli Consort and Players plus members of the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir and singers from the Gabrieli Young Singers Scheme. As with everything, this requires finance.

And further ahead, McCreesh is full of ideas for further large scale recording projects with the Gabriel Young Singers Scheme, providing finance can be found. In fact Gabriel is 30 years old this year, and one of their ways of celebrating is to try and expand their friends scheme.

With the War Requiem it will be interesting to hear how a conductor like McCreesh, famous for going back to the original text and performance, works with a piece premiered so recently. A concern for being true to the intention of the music runs through everything that McCreesh does, whether is is ensuring that French pronunciation for Latin is used in Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts, sourcing a contrabass Ophecleide for Elijah, using Czech pronunciation of Latin in Dvorak or using an instrument as unsatisfactory as the serpent to double the choir bass line in Elijah.

In fact, the evening ended with a short live performance, with three players from Gabrieli in an ensemble of serpents. A truly remarkable sound, the instrument blends well with the human voice but was never really intended to be heard solo. An entertaining and enlightening end to the evening.

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