Keswick Hall Choir

MICHAEL DRAKE Norwich Cathedral.

MICHAEL DRAKE

My anticipatory musings included wondering what the sounds must have been at the first performance of Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers) almost four centuries ago.

Whatever the result then, it can hardly have given more satisfaction than to the large audience on Saturday evening as choir, soloists and the period instruments of the Brook Street Band sounded just as fresh and focused after nearly two hours as they did for the opening Antiphon.

It was these linking, plainsong sections which proved to be the only relatively weak link in an otherwise quite splendid performance, for it was here some of the neatness and precision was lost. The sextet of soprano, tenor and baritone soloists in whichever grouping was entirely complementary, handling the complicated decorations stylishly whilst moving from the plaintive to the exuberant passages of the five psalm settings. Conductor John Aplin's immaculate direction kept this performance excitedly rhythmical.

If Psalm 121 “I was glad” epitomised the whole – light, sustained, powerful and always balanced with the KHC disciplined and precise – perhaps Psalm 147 “Praise the Lord” was the core of bright and focused singing.

And the total from everyone, with remarkable consistency, enthralled the large audience with its joyous spirituality. A premier-class performance.

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