A week of music
The Exon Singers are in Tavistock for the week, with a programme of themed concerts, recitals, and services. Today’s concert (baroque) is the first of three I plan to see. Tonight’s choir was about 20 singers with organ accompaniment.
I was in two minds about going: the programme included Zadok the Priest and the Vivaldi Gloria, both of which I tend to think I’ve sung or seen enough times for one lifetime. Are they insulting us (“country hicks need to be fed pop”), or is it because they don’t have the rehearsal time to prepare anything more exciting? But there was also the Buxtehude Magnificat, which I’ve sung but never seen, and some Bach I wasn’t familiar with. As ever, Bach stands head and shoulders above the other music.
I’m glad I went. The standard of singing was excellent: they’re trained voices, and followed the conductor accurately. Tempos were generally brisk and lively, and they gave it all the expression and light&shade to bring the music to life. Some pieces more than others: the Handel (which opened the concert) could have used a bigger choir. The Vivaldi was just a little less polished than the rest; probably they didn’t have time to rehearse. But then, so long as they give it life, and are far better than the average school or church choir murdering it, who cares?
The most interesting to me was the Buxtehude. We performed it a couple of years back with six singers + instrumental ensemble and continuo; they were 20 singers + organ. The bigger choir gave us a real distinction between solo and chorus passages, which added a good deal to it compared to our performance. And doing it with just organ was fine.
I’m looking forward to Friday (Howard Skempton – their composer in residence, and someone whose music leaves me wanting to hear more), and to Saturday (“Festival concert”, including Britten’s Hymn to Saint Cecilia, another piece I’ve sung but never heard).
Where do I go to audition?