MICHAEL DRAKE Gresham' School Auden Theatre, Holt


This elite group of young voices from the National Youth Choir was the most requested for a return visit to the Gresham's School Subscription Concert Series. One of the world's finest chamber choirs its vocal skill held Sunday's audience riveted.

The programme ranged through an impressive variety of styles from the 16th century to the present time and such is their versatility that every one was of equal merit. What would Henry VIII have made of Ward Swingle's arrangement of 'Pastime'? Could Janequin Le Chant des Oyseaux, heavily accented and entirely concentrated, have been bettered anywhere? This musical portrayal of bird calls had everything – extreme tonal quality, balance, vocal shading, immaculate enunciation and real character.

And that final attribute was in such evidence later in Rachmaninov's Ave Maria that in sound it could have been a Russian ensemble in a superb example of legato singing.

Quite differently, Bach's motet Singet den Herrn, apart from the vocal expertise, had an instrumental quality and despite its complexities, each part was so easily heard and with such emphatic rhythms, it was simply exciting.

Mike Brewer, in his relaxed directing style, exploited some striking harmony and powerful singing in Frank Martin's Kyrie Sanctus, and striking also was the 'surround sound' of John Hearne's contemporary Seagull. Atmospheric were Vaughan Williams' Three Shakespeare Songs and there was real hot stuff from Mexico via Sweden to finish.

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Laudibus, please return to Norfolk.

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