Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Exeter Chorale "In Praise of Light" Teatime Recital Church of St Michael & All Angels Mount Dinham Sunday 18 June 2017

Exeter Chorale
Musical Director: John Draisey
Afternoon Tea Concert: "In Praise of Light"
Church of St Michael & All Angels, Mount Dinham
Sunday 18 June

Basking in the summer sunshine, tempered by the refreshing coolness of St Michael's Church, and enjoying an afternoon of sensational choral music with organ accompaniment - what a splendid way to enjoy one of the hottest days of the year! John Draisey directed the Exeter Chorale while former conductor, Dr Nigel Browne (who is leaving to become a music examiner), provided organ accompaniment - for the few pieces that were not sung a cappella.

Sixteen sensational voices combined to perform thirteen songs, ancient and modern, all in celebration of "Light". On Thursday evening they will repeat most of the programme at Sidholme Music Room in Sidmouth - where the significance of these choices will become apparent. At John MacGregor's "Sidholme Organ Celebration Week" proceeds from their performance will go towards the renovation of the chandeliers (see below) as part of an on-going schedule of benefit events to raise money to maintain the beautiful Sidholme Music Room as a local community resource.

At St Michael's baroque classics, like Thomas Tallis' "O Nata Lux" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "O Jesus Christ, Light of My Life" were back-to-back with modern masterpieces like James MacMillan's exultant "O Radiant Dawn". There were also pieces for organ played by Dr Nigel Browne and John Draisey. After the lavish feast laid on during the interval, John and Nigel played a delightful duet on piano and organ respectively - Charles-Marie Widor's "Serenade" - while the choir members digested the meal they had shared with the audience.

One rather outstanding moment came during Alex Roth's "Sol Justitiae". Soprano Anne Draisey retired into the transept, but was still heard adding a very precise and resonant melody which echoed around the whole church. Both Anne and her opposite number in the second soprano section, Rachel Johnson, sang with impressive joyousness, especially in Edward Elgar's "Ave Maris Stella" where the two sections (and the altos) took turns to pick up the tune.

Also included in the programme were "Evening Hymn" by Henry Balfour Gardiner (great-uncle of John Eliot Gardiner), "Hail Gladdening Light" by Charles Wood, "Lux Aurumque" by Eric Whitacre, "Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace" by Samuel Wesley (with delightful sections for the two tenors Jo Farquarson & Richard Barnes), "Light of My Soul, Arise" by Robert Lucas de Pearsall, "La Nuict Froide et Sombre" by Orlande de Lassus, "Ecco Mormorar L'Onde" by Claudio Monteverdi (which opened with more beautiful tenor singing, echoed by the altos Jill Green, Deborah Hamilton, Jacqueline Lightband and Penny McDonald).

On the organ, Nigel played the Prelude on "O Lux Beata Trinitas" by Matthias Weckmann during the first half, and John played  "Holy is the True Light" by Willaim Henry Harris and, towards the end of the programme,  the Prelude on "Lucis Creator Optime" by Flor Peeters. The whole recital ended as it began, with the music of Thomas Tallis - "Glory to Thee, My God, This Night".

Throughout the performance, John Draisey not only conducted but also introduced each piece with something witty and informative to say about each piece. The whole experience, with music spanning several centuries and many countries, was spectacular and uplifting and brought infinitely more light into an already sun-drenched afternoon.

Music at St Michael's Mount Dinham continues on Thursday 20 July. when there are plans for the Choir of St James the Greater from Leicester to give a recital of liturgical music as part of their summer tour. Dr Nigel Browne will be giving a talk on Devon Organ Builders at Sidholme Music Room on Tuesday 20 June, and Exeter Chorale will give a slightly abridged reprise of their "In Praise of Light" concert on the evening of Thursday 22 June (details of those two Sidholme events below).

Sidholme Organ Celebration Week
Sidholme Music Room Sidmouth
Sunday 18 June 3.30pm
Musical Director: Hannah Stephenson
Monday 19 June 8pm
Michael Farley & Co
Tuesday 20 June 8pm
Organist: Dr Nigel Browne

Sidmouth Parish Church (!!!)
Wednesday 21 June 8pm

Organist Emeritus - Bath Abbey
[Admission £8]

Sidholme Music Room
Thursday 22 June 8pm
Conductor: John Draisey
Organist: Dr Nigel Browne
Admission (except Peter King) FREE
Collection for Music Room Restoration

Music at St Michael's
Choir of St James the Greater

St Michael's Church Mount Dinham
Thursday 20 July 7.30pm
Choir of St James the Greater, Leicester
(only provisionally arranged at present)

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