IT was an inspired idea to book this excellent Icelandic choir to give a festival concert in memory of the composer the late John Tavener; both have collaborated over the past decade.
In fact the choir was in the UK late last year to give the first performance of a new work when his untimely death was announced. The first part though was taken up with contemporary Icelandic compositions.
Although dark in mood and in a minor key, there was some beautifully stylish choral writing here. We also heard Jack White’s Ynysoedd – the Welsh word for islands.
White, who’s from Cardiff, developed this piece with the choir which opens with some striking chord clusters accompanied by hisses and whooshes with text in Welsh, Icelandic and English.
This Salisbury performance was the first in which the choir moved around the stage. It was visual, effective and extraordinary.
Many will have come for the Tavener works; they were not disappointed. His writing – much of it Orthodox in influence and inspiration - is both simple and complex; Song for Athene (performed at Princess Diana’s funeral) divides into 14 parts at its climax.
The Lamb had a flexibility about it that I have never heard before. What was so noticeable was the mix of twenty-two eclectic individuals; this was visually apparent in the liberal interpretations of their black and/or white dress code!
That said, the blend, expansively directed by Hilmar Őrn Agnarsson, was cohesive and unified. This was committed singing and very moving to listen and to watch.