Ars Nova Choir

MICHAEL DRAKE Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at Norwich Cathedral


Choral music has had a large share of the staging in this year's festival — its own newly-formed Festival Chorus, the Girls' Choir from Norway, BBC Singers and, as one of the last events on Saturday, a top professional chamber ensemble from Denmark.

The programme may have given the choice of the Tudor East Anglian Composer Taverner or the contemporary Tavener, but the Western Wynd Mass was the polyphonic thread of the former throughout the programme conducted by Paul Hillier, and emphasised the extraordinary blend of the choir.

If not performed liturgically, my preference is to hear a mass in sequence, but there was no denying the disciplined singing with a real heart, from the powerful final bars of the Gloria through a firmly declamatory Credo, with soaring soprano clarity to the reverend Agnus Dei.

The seamless choral progression in Arvo Part's Nunc Dimitis, with its gradually building crescendos and controlled dynamics to the subtly fading end, gave vocal scope for another facet of this outstanding choir.

Though why Sandstrom felt it necessary to adapt Purcell's anthem Hear My Prayer is debatable — I would have preferred a totally new work rather than an amalgam.

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Other Tudor music, Ah, My Dear Son for example, never lost interest in its simplicity and Sheryngham's Ah, Gentle Jesu had a rare vocal gentility.

All deserving of the prolonged applause, rewarded by Christopher Tye's so controlled In Paci. Ars Nova certainly left listeners in peace.

So ended another wide-ranging festival with outgoing artistic director Peter Bolton modestly pleased.

“It has been an enjoyable but challenging five years, which has had the advantage of being economically successful too,” he said.

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