Saturday, 14 February 2015

Matthew Cann's Antiphon Choir come to Exeter Cathedral A Lunchtime Concert of Britten, Poulenc, Eccard, Howells, Naylor, Whitacre, Biebl & Cann Saturday 7 February 2015

ANTIPHON CHOIR
Musical Director: Matthew Cann

A haven of tranquility and peace, the quire of Exeter Cathdral makes a natural setting for choral music at any time. On Saturday at 1pm, just as life outside was at its busiest, the quire was bathed in sunlight and filled with the delightful sound of Matthew Cann's 'Antiphon' choir.

Antiphon came into existence in 2011 to sing a concert of antiphons in the run up to Christmas. Several familiar voices from David Acre's 'Counterpoint' were in the choir, and also an even larger number of lay vicars from cathedrals around the country. Under Matt's direction, the sixteen voices combined beautifully. (Follow links for the first Antiphon concert, and the Missa Papae Marcelli in 2013)

Saturday's concert was a little different. Instead of visiting professionals, the choir was made up of local singers. Members of the Cathedral Choir, Buckfast Abbey Choir, and David Acre's Counterpoint Choir all joined together in song.

Jason Bomford, Edward Woodhouse, Richard Mitchell and Charles Hughes were joined in the back rows by Buckfast Abbey Musical Director, Philip Arkwright. Among the less familiar faces in the tenor section was Michael Graham, Exeter Choral Scholar and Director of the Exeter University Chapel Choir - and the Exeter College Chapel Choir. (Follow links for Michael's radio interview at Phonic FM.)

Rachel Crane and Catherine Luke joined the second sopranos, and Elle Williams and Denise Kehoe sang sweetly in the soprano line. Sweetest of all was Josie Walledge, who sang the first soprano solo in Edward Naylor's "Vox Dicentis, Clama" - and was soloist again in Handel's "Dixit Dominus" with Laurence Blyth's Exmouth Choral Society at Holy Trinity only six hours later.

With twenty experienced and expressive voices under the capable control of Matt Cann, the resulting sound was sensual as it was celestial. The opening plainsong for Candlemass was introduced by the four tenors from under the organ loft, joyfully joined by the remainder of the choir from the stalls.

Matt's voice was also called into service as he introduced each piece without the aid of microphone:

Benjamin Britten: "Hymn to the Virgin" - with the choir in two parts providing an echo effect.

Francis Poulenc: "Salve Regina" - illogical music making perfect sense.

Johann Eccard: "When to the Temple Mary Went" - in six parts.

Matt Cann: "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" - Matt directs his own setting of  Henry Johnson's prayer as a deliciously drawn out duet.

Herbert Howells: "Sing Lullaby" - affecting ebb & flow with a marvellous melody sung by the basses.

Edward Naylor: ""Vox Dicentis: Clama" (Isaiah 40:6) - scripture in stereo with the Cathedral clock striking 1.30 just as the fugue gives way to Josie's salutary soprano solo.

A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field."

Finally, a quiet ending with tenor solo (Edward Woodhouse).

Eric Whitacre: "A Boy & A Girl" - a choral setting of Octavio Paz' extraordinary poem of love and death.

Franz Biebl: "Ave Maria" - the choir separate into two - one male and one female, for a saintly session of Q & A followed by a protracted and joyous "Amen".

The audience, who had enjoyed the hour of entertainment (free of charge) without applauding, waited until the last notes had died away before clapping lustily, and bellowing, 'Bravo'. This really was a very special feast of choral music in a perfect setting and at a particularly special time of day.

Congratulations to all twenty singers for a thrilling performance, and especially to their quietly spoken and hard-working director, Matt Cann.

In the audience was former Cathedral organist Lucian Nethsingha, who responded to the Matt's Antiphon recital by saying,

"That was the best choral singing I have heard
in Exeter Cathedral in over 40 years!"

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