Tuesday, August 11

BREMF – Britain & Europe, BREMF Choirs & Players

- March 24, 2019

‘Our Shared Musical Story’ was celebrated in great style on European Early Music Day 2019 by the Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) amateur choirs at their very best.

Making dramatic use of the fine acoustic, the BREMF Consort of Voices began with a seductive selection of early Tudor and French motets. The richly layered polyphony and plainchant of Taverner, Ludford, Cornysh and Mouton seemed to exhale monastic incense. Conductor Deborah Roberts conjured a calm intensity from these twenty very accomplished singers. The blend was excellent, with every part clearly heard yet no individual voice dominating.

Just as exciting and entertaining was the hearty singing of the BREMF Community Choir, directed by Andrew Robinson and Joe Paxton, who brought to life some 12th century pilgrim hymns in French, German and Latin, brilliantly reconstructing the climactic moment when they were all sung together around the high altar at Compostela.

BREMF Consort of Voices then expressed the tragedy of the Reformation in Tallis’ serene ‘Lamentations’ and Byrd’s impassioned ‘Ne irascaris Domine’. However does such sad music sound so shockingly beautiful?

After the convivial interval that is now a hallmark of BREMF concerts, the BREMF Community Choir, supported by the unique James Shenton (violin), sang some intricate folk songs that just got faster and more fun. John Hancorn directed a lusty rendering of Purcell’s Sailors’ chorus from ‘Dido & Aeneas’ that led into the lovers’ parting and Dido’s celebrated lament, sung with stylish ornamentation by Rebecca Leggett. Andrew Robinson sang Aeneas and the marvellous BREMF Players were led by Alison Bury.

Having reached the High Baroque, BREMF’s third choir the BREMF Singers, a chorus of experienced local singers, continued with the opening chorus of Handel’s ‘Dixit Dominus’. Supported by just a string quartet, the texture was super clean and I would readily have listened to the whole cantata. Now fully in the Euro spirit, the BREMF Players with some extra help from a baroque oboe gave us the Eurovision fanfare, the Prelude to Charpentier’s ‘Te Deum’.

The finale began with the hymn-like strains of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, curiously sounding all the more powerful coming from just a string quartet. The soloists sang the verse in German, followed by all the choirs (and oboe), who then brought the audience in to sing Schiller’s plea for unity in English, a magnificent ending to an excellent concert.

This whole concert is available on the BREMF YouTube page.

St. Martin’s Church,
21 March 2019
Rating: ★★★★½
Andrew Connal

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