Saturday 7th May 2022
St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall
An outstanding concert in Coggeshall
Colchester Chamber Choir returned to Coggeshall on May 7th for another typically stimulating and exciting concert before a large audience in St Peter’s. This time their programme consisted of French and English sacred music from the 17th century. It was striking how similar the two national styles were: Protestant English and Catholic French. Each half of the programme began and ended with settings of the Te Deum and Jubilate, French in the first half and English after the interval; the words of both have long been familiar to generations of Anglicans as central to the office of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, but these were ceremonial settings on a large scale, solo voices contrasting with the chorus and instrumental ensemble, in music of regal splendour as well as intimate reflection
.It is remarkable how performances of this repertoire have changed and developed over the last thirty years or so. Previously, it would have been almost unthinkable for a locally-based choir to present such music using an ensemble of period instruments with such detailed attention to historically-informed performance practice. Here we had a Colchester-based choir using an ensemble of historical performance specialists, bringing the music alive in ways that were rarely possible hitherto.
The concert began with the celebrated Latin Te Deum by Marc Antoine Charpentier, of which the trumpet prelude is well known in sanitised arrangements for organ, complemented in the second half by Henry Purcell’s equally splendid setting of the same words in English. Also featured were settings of the Jubilate by Jean-Joseph Mondonville and Purcell again, interspersed in each half by quieter items for choir, accompanied only by the continuo instruments. Here we were able to relish the subtlety and sensitivity for which this choir is renowned. Particularly outstanding was the section ‘Ego cubui et dormivi’ (‘I laid down and slept’ ) in Purcell’s well known Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei , sung with beautifully hushed tone and sensitive phrasing.
There was strong team of young vocal soloists, functioning much of the time as an ensemble, including Sam Cobb (soprano), Lewis Hammond (alto) and Christopher Huggon (tenor). Florian Störtz (bass) delivered several declamatory solos with authority and conviction. Like the players in the ensemble, the preponderance of young musicians, specialists in the performance of ‘early’ music, augurs well for the future of such music making in this country. There was a sense of sheer enjoyment throughout the concert in the process of bringing this music alive for a present-day audience, from instrumentalists, soloists and choir alike. For this, we must thank the choir’s director, Roderick Earle, whose vision, skill and scholarship are all brought to bear in a concert such as this.