James Bowman and Tenebrae

MICHAEL DRAKE We could already have had the highlight of the entire 11 days with a stunning performance of a astounding new choral work written some 18 months ago by Tenebrae's director, Nigel Short.

MICHAEL DRAKE

Part of the excitement of the festival is being delighted with the unexpected.

We could already have had the highlight of the entire 11 days with a stunning performance of a astounding new choral work written some 18 months ago by Tenebrae's director, Nigel Short.

The Dream of Herod started quietly as the 20 strong choir left the Norwich Cathedral stage singing, to be followed by five outstanding solo voices, joined later by counter-tenor James Bowman, in a dramatically and powerfully woven portrayal of Herod's painful thoughts.

With the addition of organ and (unexpected) timpani, this was spiritually operatic in nature climaxing in peals of wonderful sound (but even with good diction, why no copy of the words?).

Earlier, Tavener's now famous Song for Athene moved seamlessly from the preceding Plainsong and James Bowman, liltingly and full-voiced in turn, demonstrated why he is the leading counter-tenor.

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And while Allegri's equally famous Miserere may have lacked some of its expected magic, Tenebrae showed again that they are a mixed voice ensemble of the utmost subtlety and precision with a transparent and quite moving performance of Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia.

Sheremetiev's Hymn for men's voices had a bass line straight from Russia and Rachmaninov's Hymn to the Cherubium rang excitingly around the building.

Completing a trio of hymns was a sumptuous arrangement of Holst's, with the Alleluias soaring high leading to a sustained acknowledgement that this was a concert long to be remembered.

But what next year Mr Bolton?

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