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REVIEW: Sarum Consort
4:20pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Entertainments
THE Sarum Consort’s recent concert in the Italianate Church in Wilton was the last under its founder and director Andrew Mackay.
In their 20-year partnership they have given 65 concerts, and a total of 96 singers have been on the books.
On this occasion, 16 of them sang some English 16th century polyphony in a well-thought out sequence pegged to the monastic daily cycle of services from Matins sung at first-light through to Vespers and bedtime Compline.
Of course, King Henry VIII did his worst to monastic foundations during the lifetimes of many of the composers represented, such as Tallis, Byrd and Tye, but that didn’t stop them producing some remarkable choral works for cathedral and other choral foundations.
For these exceptional singers (dress: black tie not monastic), this was a mini marathon – Tye’s Peccavimus and Byrd’s Infelix ego are substantial pieces, but the consort sounded fresh throughout.
By and large the balance was good. One of the most difficult pieces is the plainsong Te deum laudamus.
A short sing this is not, but it was boldly and accurately executed, culminating in a striking surprise, namely some mediaeval organum-style singing; the mediaeval monastic trick of singing plainsong in parallel fifths.
Mackay encouraged a strong sense of musical line; he is a master at shaping melodic phrases, dynamics and musical climaxes.
The lengthy silence before the final applause said it all; this was a stunning sing.