Sunday, June 11, 2006

Laudibus Rocks my World (Gently)

It has been very hot (by my pale north-european pasty-skinned standards) in London for the last week. I merely mention this because when the temperatures hit the 28-30 degree mark it plays merry hell with my poor little brain. I tend to feel slightly sleepy, rather spaced out, and uncomfortably aware of my own physicality which are not states of mind I crave. But it does put you in an altered state of mind and sometimes not quite being yourself is a good way to appreciate new experiences.

And so it was that a not-quite Mr Atrocity found himself the guest of the Glaswegian Amazon at St James's Church on Piccadilly for a concert of choral music by Laudibus, a choir made up of the best soloists to come out the National Youth Choir programme. Though not in the least religious I do love religious music and to hear it within a church does make it that little more special. There's also the beautiful decay of the sound in these big, airy spaces that is utterly captivating, especially the echo within a church and as each note dies away it really does make the hair on the back of your next stand up. It's a very beautiful acoustic that enhances the warm woody, earthy sound of the human male voice and allows the female voice to soar above. Stand out pieces for me were John Dunstable's "Quam Pulchra Es", Francis Grier's "Dilectus Meus Mihi" and especially Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's "Le Cantique des Cantiques" (The whole premise of the concert was The Song of Songs). This final piece, whilst pretty modern (certainly compared to some of the early renaissance work that began the concert) seemed strangely timeless to me, despite its use of very modern sounding dissonance and complex rhythmic structures. I was completely unaware of not only the existence of this piece but also of its composer (to my shame) but I certainly intend to rectify this over the coming weeks. The music, and its performance within such a beautiful setting, was a tremendously moving experience which I shall remember for much time to come.

The climax to the concert wasn't so good but I'll write about that later. Suffice to say that repertoire is a very important part of getting the best out of a classically trained choir and an ersatz, soulless rendition of "I Got You Under My Skin" doesn't really do it for me. But the good stuff was beautiful, and I don't want to end this post negatively so suffice to say, order the CD listed above from Amazon for a taste of Daniel-Lesur or if you can bear to wait till September get the Laudibus' version when it is released. Laudibus' next London concert will be to celebrate the release of their Song of Songs CD and will be at a church in Holborn (they did tell us at the concert but my addled brain didn't retain the information). It isn't listed on the National Youth Choirs site yet so I suppose we'll just have to keep checking back unless you are RSS savvy in which case they have a feed (bless 'em), so subscribe to that. I certainly intend to be there.

To be continued...


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