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Concert Reviews and Audience Comments



2012-13 Season

June 2013 - Tavener, Nystedt, Ola Gjeilo, Arensky, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Arvo Pärt.

Saturday 8th June 2013 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester , with Rowena Calvert, ‘cello, directed by Richard Laing.

"This varied and fine example of programme building was played to a smaller than usual audience. Those who stayed away because of ‘modern’ composers (Arensky, Bach and Tchaikovsky modern?) missed a treat! There were eight items. In these demanding days it is de rigueur for a good choir not only to sing in Latin, French and German, but, as in this concert, Church Slavonic.

From the beginning, Rowena Calvert created an atmosphere of serenity and gravitas with Bach: the Prelude of the unaccompanied D minor ‘cello suite. The choir responded with Arensky’s Lord’s Prayer, sung (in Russian or Church Slavonic) with conviction and typical Russian sonority. Then choir and ‘cello were joined in a remarkably powerful and expressive ‘modern’ work (1987) by Norwegian Knut Nystedt – a setting of the Stabat Mater, a 13th century devotional poem describing the emotions of Jesus’ mother Mary at his crucifixion. Nystedt’s setting caught the tone to such an extent that, at the end, I felt I had been inwardly weeping. The cello commented in brief and sometimes extensive ritornelli between some verses, and accompanied powerfully the interestingly written choral part. Richard Laing said it was a ‘cello concerto with choir accompaniment’: is it really? It seemed to me to be fine choral writing with a fascinatingly virtuosic and integrated ‘cello line. At the end of this piece the mood changed from the painful and sad through the meditative and excited, to inward joy.

As if this were not enough, the choir sang Tschaikovsky’s Hymn to the Virgin, again in the original language: a passionate outpouring of vibrantly surging choral sound alternating with gently atmospheric devotional music.

It is my conviction that music conveys things which no other art form can. During the next piece, a setting of O Magnum Mysterium by the young Norwegian composer (b. 1978), Ola Gjeilo, the sound of the warm-toned choir, accompanied by the soaring ‘cello, gave me a completely new insight into the familiar thought of the Christ child as sacrament. The interval followed. Chatter was out of the question. I sought stillness. Music needs silence.

Arvo Pärt’s Fratres began with vigorous ‘cello arpeggios, and continued with a piano accompaniment which produced chords of choral quality, later subsumed into eerie sounds of miraculous harmonics on the ‘cello. Then more Bach in a ‘cello Gigue. Then the gloriously simple Cherubic Hymn by Glinka with a big Russian sound. Finally John Tavener rounded off the evening with Svyati – a mesmeric choral prayer on a drone bass, with the choir at the front and the ‘cello at the back of St James’s providing their own evocations of celestial sounds.

This was an evening when I was reminded what the purpose of music really is. "

David H Clark, 9.6.13

March 2013 - Rheinberger: Mass in E flat for double choir 'Cantus Missae'
Kodály: Missa Brevis

Saturday 23rd March 2013 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester.

Rheinberger: Mass in E flat for double choir, interspersed with choice organ music; Kodaly: Missa Brevis for choir and organ; coda – Abendlied – Evening Song.

From the ridiculous to the sublime! Emergency exits and toilet runs explained. Then: a burst of rich sound as the choir in two groups of four launched into the Kyrie and the even richer sounds of the Gloria. A slightly smaller than usual but enthusiastic audience braved the cold and snow to listen to this 19th century Mass directed by Richard Laing. It was good programming, not merely as padding or to give the choir a breather, to insert Bruckner's Prelude in C minor between the Gloria and the Credo and Reger’s Chorale Prelude between the Sanctus and the Benedictus. This chorale, appropriately enough for the season of Holy Week, sings of the union of God and Nature being an image of the union of God and humanity brought about by Jesus' death on a cross. This hidden knowledge became apparent through the choir's committed singing of the Credo with its bursts of overlapping sounds. Richard Laing helped the choir to bring out the tenderness of the Incarnatus, and emphasised the rude interpolation of the Crucifixus with its staccato setting of the words passus (suffered) et sepultus est (was buried). Further organ insertions enhanced the Mass, including a well-known Adagio by Mendelssohn and a lesser known Rheinberger Trio played sensitively by Ivan Linford on the magnificent St James's organ.

The Mass in E flat is a beautiful late romantic work (1878) with luscious phrases of polyphony and homophony. The choir rose to the challenge of this large piece well, given that the weather prevented some key singers to be present. Nevertheless, the choir made a strong mature sound in all parts, even with two of the eight tenors missing, and seemed to me to be well-balanced. I felt the choir's enthusiasm occasionally outran its moderation, especially in the soprano line, where, to my ears, a more covered sound was needed in the upper registers.

In the second half of the concert the Missa Brevis (subtitled in tempore bello – in time of war) made even greater demands here. The sopranos did well to reach the very high phrases Kodaly calls for, especially in the Hosanna in excelsis and the Agnus Dei at the end. The part of the Kyrie setting for upper voices reminded me of sirens (I’m a war baby, but were there sirens in Budapest in 1943?) The Gloria was sung beautifully with appropriate attention to its romanticism. There is an independent accompaniment for organ with a striking introduction (Introitus), ably played by Ivan Linford.

The concert was adorned with a well-presented and informative programme, which gave this listener at least a heightened awareness of the import and circumstances of the compositions. This was dramatic in the case of the Kodaly Mass, completed under war time conditions in a cellar of a Benedictine convent, and performed for the first time in 1943 in the basement of the opera house in Budapest, ‘accompanied by harmonium and distant gunfire.’ It was a rich and inspiring evening, well worth the effort. It is worth remembering that such artistic achievements are largely built on massive voluntary support, aided by very few professionals.

David H Clark, 24 March, 2013.

Audience Comments

December 2012 - Christmas Concert with Musical Village and Elizabeth Woodville School

"I've never heard LBC sing before - it sounded wonderful! A really, really exciting sound!!" - Susan.

"What a lovely concert, the children were inspiring." - Jacquie.

"Tanya, the harpist, was awesome - spellbinding." - Jane.

November 2012 - Handel's Israel in Egypt

"Excellent soloists and orchestra. You really could hear the flies, lice and hail stones!" .

" I thought the chorus sounded great. Lots of really polished singing, even when the sopranos were in the stratosphere! Well done all!"



Past Events

We are developing a resource of programmes and memorabilia from past concerts and events on this adjoining page.


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