Monday, 10 October 2011

Peter Milmer's outstanding new choral 'Requiem' - Andrew Daldorph and East Devon Choral Society Exeter Cathedral Saturday 8 October

East Devon Choral Society and Exeter Concert Orchestra
The East Devon Choral Society were at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday evening to perform an extraordinary composition by a young local GP, Peter Milmer. Peter began work in 2007 on a fitting requiem mass for his brother who died in 2003 aged 25.

The choir began the recital with the very moving 'Zadok the Priest' from Handel's music for the coronation of George II. Andrew Daldorph conducted the choir and orchestra, and then conducted the orchestra alone in a beautiful performance of Gustav Holst's St Paul's Suite – St Paul's being the school where Holst was Director of Music.
Conductor Andrew Daldorph
Andrew had only a very short time to prepare this piece, but conducted the orchestra with his usual energy and style. Andrew and Orchestra Leader Fiona McLean worked perfectly together to perform this lovely gentle piece. With the accent on strings and in particular the 'cellos and basses, the music included various styles including eastern, highland and at one point the great English Classic 'Greensleeves'.

Jane Pirie (on the right) leads the 'Cellos (Andrew Daldorph playing the organ)
Fiona then took over the directing of the orchestra completely for Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number 3. Andrew was still involved, following Fiona's direction as he played the organ part.

Flautist Sophie Brewer
The Handel was rousing, the Holst was soothing and the Bach was incredibly beautiful. After an interval, however, the much longer second half was given over entirely to Peter Milmer’s Requiem. The requiem opened with a French horn solo. Peter plays French horn, and was in the orchestra on Saturday, but the responsibility for those ominous opening notes was given to the lead horn player Trevor Ives.

Recent recruit to the Choir, Soprano Mary O'Shea
As the plaintive notes of the horn drew to a close, percussionist Tracey Austin introduced her bass drum which punctuated and accented the orchestra and choir throughout an hour of sublime music, which was especially moving for the audience, knowing that Peter himself was sitting among the orchestra. The 'dies irae' set the scene with drum, tuba and the bass voice of soloist Simon Gallear.

The orchestra and choir were small for such a large space. There were one each of the woodwind and brass instruments. However, the sound filled the Cathedral easily. Everyone was able to hear clearly and to be deeply touched by the music.

Mezzo Soprano Jeanette Ager, Soprano Katie Bond
Four soloists took part. Soprano Katie Bond was particularly prominent, singing the opening ‘requiem’, the ‘recordare’ – which she shared with Tenor Mario Sofroniou, and the final ‘in paradisum’. The bass Simon Gallear also shared the very tender ‘libera me’ with Katie towards the end of the requiem.  For most of the work the soloists sang together, sometimes with the choir, sometimes on their own. The voice of Mezzo Soprano Jeanette Ager was only occasionally heard in isolation, but added a very special touch whenever is was heard.
Tenor Mario Sofroniou, Bass Simon Gallear
This is a huge musical work. There are nine movements, each more glorious than the last. Peter had clearly worked to the utmost of his abilities and talents for a very long time to create this extraordinary masterTenor Mario piece. Despite this only being the second performance of Peter’s Requiem, and the choir and soloists having no recordings to use to familiarise themselves with the piece, the singers gave a superb performance.
Andrew congratulates Leader Fiona McLean
The quality and accuracy of the singing never wavered and the emotional impact built with each aria and chorus. After the explosive vehemence of the ‘dies irae’ – with Tracey Austin’s drum breaking into each phrase like a pistol shot, and the choir singing of the terrible day of judgement – the  intensity increased relentlessly.

At the final note of the ‘in paradisum’ – “aeternam habeas requiem” (“May you have eternal rest”) the entire audience stood to show their appreciation.

. . . and the choir . . .
Quiet and unassuming, and no doubt deeply aware of the very personal nature of the words he had just shared through the music, Peter was persuaded by Andrew Daldorph to join him at the podium to receive the delighted applause of the audience – and all the musicians - directly. 

. . . and special thanks to the composer, Peter Milmer

For anyone who missed this glorious, and deeply poignant, requiem mass, we can only hope that there is a repeat performance before too long. However, after this performance it will be possible to hear a recording. The stage was rigged with microphones and sound equipment, which can only mean one thing. Mike Gluyas was there to make one of his extremely high quality recordings. Within a few days we should know how he is getting on with the editing of Saturday’s recording, and hear the results in the not too distant future.

Even after a concert of that magnitude, the musical director of the East Devon Choral Society, Andrew Daldorph will still be busy – preparing for another concert next Saturday at the United Reformed Church in Dix’s Field in Exeter. This time, an evening of music by Benjamin Britten with the Exeter Chamber Choir.

Autumn Concert of Music by Britten
United Reformed Church Southernhay Exeter
Saturday 15 October 7.30pm
Exeter Chamber Choir
Benjamin Britten:
‘Rejoice in the Lamb’
‘Hymn to St Cecilia’
‘Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam’
Organist: Andrew Daldorph
Conductor: Tina Guthrie
Tickets: £10 (child/student £5 advance £8/4)
Keith Wainwright 01404 813 04

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