Review from Elizabeth Bouman (St Pauls Cathedral, Saturday 18th October, 2008)


St Paul’s Cathedral was very well-filled on Saturday evening for a “Renaissance Choral Extravaganza” presented by The Southern Consort of Voices directed by Daniel Kelly, the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral directed by David Burchell, and Friends, making a total of forty-eight voices.


The a capella works were all antiphonal in the non-secular style of the Renaissance age – this being a style where voices are split into several small groups to perform “separately yet together” resulting in thick harmonic texture formed through blending and overlapping many melodic strands. Constant interplay of counterpoint from opposite sides of the sanctuary demands total focus from all concerned and Saturday’s performers generally succeeded, with good balance of reverberation overlap in their programme of nineteen works.


The opening Gloria in twelve parts by Giovanni Gabrieli took a little time to settle, but gathered fine polychoral intensity as it progressed. However the final work Spem in alium (Thomas Tallis), an exhilarating complex work in eight antiphonal sections moved at a good pace and showed confidence and security from two hours of singing.


Highlights for me were the balance and beauty of St Paul’s choir of just twelve voices in When David heard (Thomas Tomkins) and O sacrum convivium (Tallis); the excellent blend from the Consort in Tu pauperum, a work written approximately 500 years ago by Josquin Desprez and the combined choirs in Magnificat a 8 by Andrea Gabrieli.


David Burchell played several short organ toccatas, and one bracket from the Consort was accompanied by Charlotte Francis and Alex Vaastra (violins), Dora Wilden-Green (cello) and Denis McCombe (organ).