Review of April 2017 Concert

It was….Magnificat!

Sometimes, despite all the learning, rehearsing and expectations, a concert falls flat: lacklustre and unexceptional. Sometimes, everything comes together and the musicians excel themselves with a vibrant, sparkling performance. Cantilena came very close to this on Saturday 29 April when they produced a thrilling evening that left the audience wanting more.

It's often a case of confidence. Choir, and perhaps especially orchestra and soloists, projected that in abundance, creating a relaxed but expectant atmosphere where the glorious Baroque music resounded around St Mary's Church, Glastonbury.

The evening opened with Buxtehude's serene Jesus, Priceless Treasure, allowing the choir to express a sweet, well-balanced sound. It was just the right starter. This was followed by the little-known trumpet concerto by Johann Fasch, played with verve and panache by David Bertie. It's a short, three-movement work from a composer whose large volume of work has almost all been lost, with none published in his long lifetime (1688-1768). It's a piece that deserves wider recognition. The first half ended with Bach's intense and beautiful Cantata God so Loved the World. The choir sang with passion and commitment, aided by Bach's wonderfully architectural orchestration.

Fortified by a convivial interval with wine, the audience settled to hear Bach's popular but challenging Magnificat. There were times when the choir struggled to project over the orchestra, including three trumpets; but overall it was a creditable performance. The audience responded enthusiastically and clearly enjoyed the evening.

There were five soloists, including the very young soprano Tallulah Horton a pupil of Downside School. Tallulah displayed a particular purity of tone as well as accuracy, and it was a delight to hear her during the first half of the concert. The other soloists were Juliet Schiemann (soprano), Roderick Morris (counter-tenor), Edward Ross (tenor) and Benjamin Bevan (bass). In particular, Benjamin Bevan was outstanding in terms of timbre and delivery; although that in no way diminishes the contributions from the others, as all were excellent.

The orchestra and organ were terrific, with some wonderful individual playing. Music director Tony Bevan and choir are to be congratulated on a memorable evening. To be able to experience this quality of music-making locally, and for a relatively modest outlay (including a glass of wine!) was a real treat. It was heartening that the audience was a good size, although the event deserved to be a sell-out.

I look forward to Cantilena's next concert on Saturday 8 July, 7:30pm at St Michael's Church, Park Road, Shepton Mallet, where I understand a very different programme will be on offer.
Eleanor Thomas

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