BREMF – Transiting the Night Hours – BREMF Consort of Voices

9.00pm is late to start any concert but the BREMF CofV keep one alert in the best possible way. Music for a Tudor Compline needs the atmosphere of a darkening church and benefited from finding an intimate setting in the vastness of St Bartholomew’s, perhaps the most enormous parish church in the UK. Rather than being grandly spaced on the platform in front of the altar, the singers sat in a crescent to one side of the nave, near the doors. Being seated also allowed for the two wheel-chairs in the choir and made the performance less showy – Compline in pre-Reformation England was a routine service sung privately by monks every night, not an ostentatious display for an audience. However, only the finest chapters would have attempted such rich polyphony or sung elaborate plainsong so flawlessly. The Cantus line was softer than usual with this choir, with fewer soaring high Gs, so the Altus and Tenor parts seemed more prominent. The balance overall was still excellent.

The second half of the concert comprised music for Matins of the feast of St John the Baptist, more elaborate plainchant and two sumptuous motets by Palestrina and Victoria, sung with the choir’s trademark clarity of diction and precise tuning. Alas, to keep the running time at about one hour, the second part of the Palestrina was cut. The late night setting was an important part of the authentic experience but 10.00pm was quite nocturnal enough for me and doubtless too for the singers.  Of course such excellent singing kept my full attention and I’d have happily listened to another hour or so. However, back in the day Matins would have not have started until 2.00am!

St Bartholomew’s Church,
24 June 2022
Rating: ★★★★½
Andrew Connal

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