THE Double Cube Room at Wilton House was the gloriously opulent location for this George Herbert Festival concert.
Texts such as Herbert’s King of glory, King of peace are indelible contributions to Christian hymnody. This was a sell-out concert of musical settings of Herbert’s words interspersed by readers Sonia Woolley and Nigel Wingate reciting fascinating letters and articles praising his writings; “men like George Herbert are rare,” said The Christian Remembrancer in 1862.
There was some excellent playing and singing from the Farrant Singers (conductor Andrew Mackay), soprano soloist Alison Hill, and Elizabeth Kenny (lute).
Each piece was helpfully preceded by the reading of the text, though sadly this didn’t happen prior to the first performance of Alec Roth’s Men and Angels; itself a clever setting of the dialogue between angels and man in praise of God.
Roth’s writing is lush with melodic close harmonies.
Prayer by the Shaftesbury-based composer Barry Ferguson is an imaginative setting of Herbert’s insight into the fragmentary nature of prayer.
Ferguson’s sonorities are more sparse but lyrical nonetheless.
The Farrant Singers did credit to both, as did Alison Hill and Elizabeth Kenny with pieces such as Purcell’s With sick and famish’d eyes; Alison’s clear tone is ideal for music of this kind.
This very warm evening was a well-thought out sequence of insights not only into Herbert’s work, but also into the music and letters that he inspired.