"Entente Cordiale"

Parry - I was glad,
Vierne - Messe Soleonnelle C# Minor,
Fauré - Cantique de Jean Racine,
Karl Jenkins - Sacred Songs

Date Venue
22nd Nov 2014, 07:30 PM St John the Evangelist, West Meon
23rd Nov 2014, 07:30 PM All Saints Church, Botley


On a cold and drab November evening it was hard to believe that this was the day of St. Cecilia – the patron saint of music. Yet from the opening bars of Botley Choral Society’s concert of British and French music all thoughts of the gloom outside were dispelled.

The evening began with Cantique de Jean Racine, a lush, romantic piece by Gabriel Faure. Precursor to his better known requiem, the Cantique contains some beautiful melodies, and all parts of the choir gave a lyrical account. Louis Vierne’s Messe Solennelle was new to me. It is a powerful work, with an astonishing variety of rhythms, textures and moods. Better known as an organist, Vierne originally scored the work for two organs, but in this arrangement, which calls for a single instrument, organist Mark Dancer gave a wonderful performance. Under the baton of musical director David Burgess, choir and organ were in dialogue throughout, and the changing dynamics were beautifully handled. The Kyrie is particularly moving, and the choir made a glorious sound that filled the church to its rafters.

In addition to the organ, a nine-strong string ensemble accompanied the choir, and in Karl Jenkins’ Sacred Songs this partnership came into its own. I especially enjoyed the Virgo Virginum, where a lovely balance was achieved between the cantabile vocal lines and the almost mysterious pizzicato of the string ensemble. The Benedictus gave another opportunity for the choir to demonstrate its dynamic range, beginning in contemplative mood, and then bursting forth into a moving fortissimo, before returning to the haunting opening melody.

Played at the coronation of every British monarch since King Charles 1, Hubert Parry’s I Was Glad is intended for large forces, and conductor, choir and musicians did full justice to this grand, well-known work. Their uplifting performance stayed with me as I made my way home through the dark and damp Hampshire lanes.


by Stephen Waring, Making Music