Friday 21 June 2019

Focus, concentration, engagement and enthusiasm: Gabrieli Roar in An English Coronation

Gabrieli Roar, Gabrieli Consort & Players - St Andrew's Church, Holborn
Gabrieli Roar, Gabrieli Consort & Players
St Andrew's Church, Holborn
An English Coronation 1902-1953; Gabrieli Roar, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh; St Andrew's Church, Holborn Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 February 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The young people of Gabrieli Roar join with Gabrieli Consort & Players for an evening that was both thrilling and inspiring

Earlier this year Gabrieli released its An English Coronation: 1902-1953 recording [see my review], the latest Gabrieli Roar project in which hundreds of young people joined professional singers and instrumentalists from the Gabrieli Consort and Players to perform music from the four 20th century coronations. By way of a slightly belated CD launch, Gabrieli performed music from the disc last night with reduced forces.

At St Andrew's Church, Holborn (which re-opened in May this year after a year-long restoration programme) on Thursday 20 June 2019, singers, brass players and percussionists from Gabrieli, and organist Robert Quinney were joined by nearly 70 young singers from Gabrieli Roar, comprising the Tiffin Boys' Choir, director James Day, and the David Ross Education Trust Youth Choir, director Simon Toyne, conducted by Paul McCreesh, to perform music from the four 20th century coronations, with works by Parry, Elgar, RVW, Handel, Parratt, S.S.Wesley, Merbecke, Stanford, Gibbons, Walton and Britten.

The Tiffin Boys' Choir, founded in 1957, is based at the Tiffin School in Kingston, whilst the David Ross Education Trust Youth Choir was formed in 2018 and is made up of children from secondary academies from the David Ross Education Trust with children from across the East Midlands (Grimsby, Skegness, Spilsby, Tattershall, Boston, Loughborough, Corby, Northampton).

The programme was structured like a coronation, with the Entrance into the Abbey, the Recognition, the Communion, the Anointing, the homage, the Te Deum and the Recessional, and between each part Paul McCreesh engagingly explained what was going on, as well as introducing Gabrieli Roar and its work. The music was split between the professional singers and the young people, with some works like Elgar's O Hearken Thou and the Creed from RVW's Mass in G minor being performed just be the professionals. But the young people were certainly challenged, not only singing large scale items like Parry's I was glad, Handel's Zadok the Priest, and Walton's Coronation Te Deum but also quieter items such as Merbecke's Lord's Prayer and S.S. Wesley's Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.

The professionals made a beautifully polished and focused sound, shaping phrases finely yet also making the music live. With 18 singers and a lively acoustic, these were vibrant performances and I have rarely heard music from RVW's Mass in G minor in so fabulously present a performance.

But inevitably focus was on the young people (aged from 11 to 18), who added a lovely clarity and brightness to the sound, and in the big moments with the eight brass players blazing this was a wonderfully loud performance. The opening choral section of Handel's Zadok the priest was almost a wall of sound, and Parry's I was glad  was thrilling and stirring in all the right ways. Yet we heard a remarkable amount of detail too, and no allowances had to be made for the singers youth or for any lack of prior experience in this repertoire.

Inevitably the different young singers reacted in various ways to the performances. Some were visibly enthused and entered into the performance with real physical abandon, whilst other took the traditional British choir boy route and looked nonchalant, hardly moving, yet making wonderful sounds. But what was never in doubt was their remarkable focus, concentration, engagement and enthusiasm.

The event finished with Stanford's wonderful 'Coronation Gloria' in B flat with a fabulously exhuberant opening, a quieter middle (with soprano solo) and  a rousing final section. This was followed by Walton's Coronation Te Deum, a wonderfully theatrical (and famously tricky) piece which the young singers rather impressively sang from memory. We ended with the National Anthem, of course, in Britten's arrangement (not actually done for a Coronation, but a very suitable ending).

There was audience participation too, we sang in RVW's The Old Hundredth ('All people that on earth do dwell') with its thrilling trumpet parts. Evidently in RVW's score he says to use all available trumpets and when Gabrieli made the recording they had around 20, but the four at St Andrew's Holborn were certain more than adequate! For the Acclamations (with bass William Townsend standing in for the Archbishop of Canterbury), the audience also played the role of the congregation and it was fascinating to learn the one of Ernest Bullock's fanfares for the the Crowning was based on the music hall song Where did you get that hat!

Organist Robert Quinney stood in for much of the orchestral accompaniment, creating a fine back-drop for the singers. Whilst the organ he played is modern, the case is profoundly historic as it was the one originally on Handel's organ in the Foundling Hospital Chapel.

Currently Gabrieli Roar works with nine or ten youth choirs, giving ordinary young people the chance to do extraordinary things. The projects are not about creating works specially for young people, but placing them alongside professions and giving them the chance to do amazing things. McCreesh explained that they would like to expand the project, and increase the number of choirs but of course this requires further fundraising.

You can read more about Garieli Roar's work at the Gabrieli website.

An English Coronation 1902-1952
Ernest Bullock - Fanfare
Parry - I was glad
Acclamations and Fanfares
Elgar - O hearken thou
RVW - Creed from Mass in G minor
Plainsong (arr Ernest Bullock) - Come Holy Ghost
Handel - Zadok the Priest
Acclamation and Fanfare
Parratt - Be strong and play the man
Anon (attributed to John Redford) - Rejoice in the Lord alway
S.S.Wesley - Thou wilt keep him
RVW - The Old Hundredth
RVW - O Taste and See
arr. Merbecke - The Lord's Prayer
Stanford - 'Coronation' Gloria in B flat
Gibbons - Three-fold Amen
Walton - Coronation Te Deum
arr. Britten - National Anthem

Elsewhere on this blog
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  • Gender bending Baroque: Lawrence Zazzo and Vivica Genaux swap genders and roles in this brilliant Baroque opera recital  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Garsington Opera: the UK stage debut of Offenbach's late opera comique Fantasio intrigues and engages - (★★★★½)  opera review
  • A sense of architecture: Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent in Bach's Mass in B minor (★★★★½) - concert review
  • Aldeburgh Festival: Knussen Chamber Orchestra's concert debut in Knussen, Takemitsu, Stravinsky, Britten, Schubert (★★★★★) - concert review
  • An artist obscured by his own mythos: Ron Howard's documentary 'Pavarotti'  (★★★)   - Film review
  • Craftsmanship, colour & imagination: the symphonies of Thomas Wilson from RSNO & Rory MacDonald on Linn Records (★★★★★) - CD review 
  • Flair & imagination: UK premiere of Thomas Larcher's The Hunting Gun at the Aldeburgh Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Poise, elegance and drama: Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton, Reason in Madness (★★★★★)  - CD review
  • The Grange Festival: Sheer enjoyment, Christopher Luscombe's delightful contemporary setting for Verdi's Falstaff  (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Opera Holland Park: A finely balanced cast in 1930s setting for Verdi's Un ballo in maschera (★★★★½) - Opera review 
  • Something for everyone: I chat to Michael Williams', Buxton Festival's CEO, about ideas and plans for the festival - interview
  • Grange Park Opera: Verdi's Don Carlo returns in Jo Davies & Leslie Travers stylish & imaginative production (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Opera Holland Park opens its 2019 season with a striking new Manon Lescaut directed by award-winning Karolina Sofulak (★★★★½) - opera review
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1 comment:

  1. My grandson, Stephen, who is a Tiffin boy, is on your photograph - one of the few not looking at the conductor. Wish I had been there. We have the CD set, which is wonderful.


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