Ionian Singers

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Wymondham Abbey

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Music by Elgar, richly textured and generous in emotion, made a good start to this recital in the handsome setting of Wymondham Abbey.

It was given by the Ionian Singers, a group of 30 performers that, if sometimes a little lacking in tone colour, was attentive, well-disciplined and well-balanced.

Their programme set out to explore the striking variety of English part-song writing over the last 100 years. It was especially fascinating to listen to the evolution of methods of composition because they were used to interpret text that for the most part had high literary merit.

Elgar, for instance had turned to Shelley and Vaughan, and it was from William Blake that John Ireland borrowed the words for his touching Cradle Song.

Taking some well-known lyrics by Jonson, Elisabeth Lutyens had the lines declaimed clearly against a background in her challenging style. This grafting of modernity on tradition was both attractive and artful, making a cunning appeal to all tastes in different ways.

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The theme of nature was brought out in Herbert Howells' traditional The Summer is Coming and in John Casken's distinctly more progressive Sun Rising. His text was an imaginative, but easily understood poem by the gifted Sylvia Townsend Warner.

The Ionian Singers were directed by Timothy Salter, a composer in his own right. His arrangements of popular tuneful folk songs created opportunities for displaying a wide range of choral techniques. As responses to typically gritty verses by GM Hopkins, two sections from his The White and the Walk of the Morning were more demanding but also more rewarding. Next time he really must let us hear the whole work.

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