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of our 2010 concerts!
Saturday 16th October 2010
Handel in Italy
James Bowman (countertenor)
Mary Bevan (soprano)
Divertimento String Ensemble
Handel - Cara sposa from Rinaldo (James Bowman)
Handel - Laudate pueri Dominum HWV 237 (Mary Bevan and Counterpoint)
Handel - Lascia ch'io piango from Rinaldo (James Bowman)
Handel - Te decus virgineum from the Carmelite Vespers (James Bowman)
Handel - Dixit Dominus HWV 232 (James Bowman, Mary Bevan and Counterpoint)
Burgon - This ean night (James Bowman and Laurence Blyth)
...I confess to not being a lover of the countertenor voice but I have to agree that Saturday night's concert in the Abbey has altered my view. When James Bowman sang his first two arias from Handel's Rinaldo, I was mesmerised. The tone and power in his voice was spell-binding. I also have to admit to shedding the odd tear or two during the performance of Lascia ch'io piango. I have heard this aria so many times and it has always been sung by contraltos or sopranos. The control and dynamics of Bowman's voice were staggering...the way he faded the volume to a whisper at the end was simply magical. Thank you once again David for bringing together such a diversity of musicians for our enjoyment - the programme was masterful. (Ron Lewis)
Mary Bevan and James Bowman complimented each other so well in your concert Handel in Italy last Saturday night in Buckfast Abbey...singers from either ends of their careers, they were matched impeccably. Mary Bevan's articulation and breath-control were wonderful to hear and James Bowman's mastery of the Handelian repertoire was apparent for all to see and hear. There was such an obvious rapport between soloists, choir and orchestra; it was a delight to behold. (Nicholas Tredwell)
I had eagerly awaited your Handel in Italy concert for several months. Dixit Dominus is one of my favourite Handel works and I had not heard the Laudate pueri Dominumbefore. I was not disappointed! The Dixit was dramatic and exciting; the soloists were divine; the band was sympathetic and colourful - what a superb evening's entertainment - I am still hearing the exciting Conquasabit movement as I write! (Betty Hubert)
Mr Bowman must be fast approaching 70 - I first saw him some 50+ years ago! Last night he sounded as fresh and pure of tone as he did all those years ago. The old gentleman next to me and the young couple in front of me were all dabbing their eyes as the last notes of the Lascia ch'io piango died away - along with me also! I have not heard of Mary Bevan before but I thank you for introducing her soaring lines and beauty of tone to me. Her breathing technique was incredible and the projection and power in her voice was incredible. When Josie Walledge from the choir joined her to sing the duet De torrente, it was pure undiluted heaven for me, I could hardly breath! Thank you so much for what you and Counterpoint bring to the West Country. We would be a lot poorer musically if you were not around. (Mary Julian)
Just wanted to express how extraordinary Saturday nights concert was for us! I was only joking when I said I wanted to sit in front of the conductor but as it turned out that was what happened. To be that close to the conductor, singers and ensemble was a real gift. I think the evening and music will be one of the finest live musical experiences I've been lucky enough to enjoy. To hear the rising and falling of the voices and then that amazing swelling volume that comes from the choir was fantastic. The soloist weren't too shabby either to be fair! Thank you David for a really memorable night and bringing such beautiful music to life in a magical venue. (Simon Moore)
I am an avid concert-goer. Living in the Home Counties I get the opportunity to see and listen to lot of live music through the year. Last Saturday I was staying with friends at Tavistock and they brought me along to your concert. Counterpoint sang with much style and dynamic control - the sopranos were as good as any of the choirs I have heard over the past 12 months, including The Sixteen, Ex Cathedra and Polyphony. There was such an obvious enjoyment of singing on the singers faces; it was most infectious. The soloists were awesome: Mary Bevan's assured control and ringing clarity and James Bowman's assured mastery of his technique and the wonderful way he communicates his singing to his audience. A pure delight from beginning to end. Please put me on the mailing list. (Richard Atkinson)
Saturday 3rd July 2010
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (2nd June, 1953)
A reconstruction of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Exeter Cathedral Choir
Direction by Andrew Millington, Stephen Tanner and David Acres
Paul Morgan (organ)
Parry - I was Glad (combined choirs)
Howells - Behold O God our Defender (Counterpoint)
Harris - Let my Prayer come up (cathedral choir, boys and men)
Handel - Zadok the Priest (combined choirs)
Dyson - Confortare (Be strong and of good courage) (Counterpoint)
Redford/Anon - Rejoice in the Lord Always (cathedral choir, girls
Wesley - Thou will keep Him in Perfect Peace (cathedral choir, girls
Byrd - I will not Leave you Comfortless (cathedral choir)
Gibbons - O Clap Your Hands (cathedral choir, boys and men)
Vaughan Williams - All People that on Earth do Dwell (combined
Vaughan Williams - Creed from the Mass in G Minor (Counterpoint)
Vaughan Williams - Sanctus from the Mass in G Minor (cathedral
choir, boys and men)
Vaughan Williams - O Tase and See (cathedral choir, girls and men)
Stanford - Coronation Gloria (cathedral choir)
Walton - Coronation Te Deum (combined choirs)
An inspired concept to perform most of the music from The Coronation 57 years after the event, but - Praise God - still relevant today with Her Majesty still on the throne.
The music chosen was sung by a variety of groups - the Cathedral Boys and Men, the Cathedral Girls and Men, Counterpoint, and a combination of all three choirs. This made for a most satisfying and revealing contrast throughout the evening. The concert was accompanied by film of the actual Coronation Service, with the "Richard Dimbleby" commentary admirably provided by The Precentor.
The combined forces began with the stirring Parry anthem I was glad, which, together with Handel's Zadok the Priest had been sung at the coronation of her father a quarter of a century earlier. The conductor was Andrew Millington, Cathedral Director of Music.
This energetic opening was followed by the Introit to the Mass Behold O God our defender by Herbert Howells. Sung by Counterpoint under their conductor David Acres, one's first impression was of the beautifully serene blend of this chamber choir, with a clarity, especially in the top line, which was simply mesmerising. Such a contrast set the tone for the whole evening.
The Gradual of the Mass Let my prayer come up into thy presence by Sir William Harris was then sung by the boys and men of the Cathedral Choir. The Credo of the Mass proper - from Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor - was sung by Counterpoint. This work was written for Westminster Cathedral in 1922, and is still as fresh and archetypically English today as when it was written. For double choir with a quartet of soloists, this was serenely sung, and there were special moments of pianissimo, as in the incarnatus section, which made one's heart stop.
By contrast Handel's uplifting Zadok the Priest followed, reminding us of the anointing of King Solomon. This is something of a war-horse on royal occasions, and is so often performed that it might become hackneyed. The main reason for such a reaction is the tempo. Andante maestoso is Handel's marking, and this evening that was observed to the letter by Acres: a wonderfully grand and steady speed of the introductory 22 bars from Paul Morgan at the organ provided a sense of awe and anticipation all too often missed. When the choirs did eventually burst in with their exuberant opening syllable - without one has to say any elaborate gesture from the Conductor - it was a breath-taking moment, and almost a surprise despite its familiarity!
Then followed a commission for the Coronation - George Dyson's Confortare, sung at the moment of the crowning.
At the coronation, the Homage of all present in Westminster Abbey was accompanied by the singing of five anthems, four of which were sung here by the Cathedral choirs, two before the interval and two at the start of the second half. The 16th century Rejoice in the Lord alway (attributed to John Redford), and the glorious contrapuntal double-choir O clap your hands together by Orlando Gibbons closed the first part, and to open Part II William Byrd's Non vos relinquam orphanos and SS Wesley's Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.
As at the coronation itself everyone then sang the Offertory hymn All people that on earth do dwell, to the tune The Old Hundredth in the specially arranged version for the occasion by Vaughan Williams.
The Sanctus from the G minor Mass then followed, beautifully sung by the boys and men of the Cathedral choir. Sadly the Communion motet, again specially commissioned for the 1953 service, O taste and see, was disappointingly sung by the girls and men: overfast, relentless and largely wordless.
But the glories of the evening were still to come: Stanford's Gloria in excelsis, from his full set of B flat canticles, composed in 1911, and to conclude, the exhilarating Te Deum laudamus, composed especially in 1953 by William Walton.
This was a thrilling evening, with some truly spectacular sounds, and also, more movingly, some truly serene moments. (Geoffrey Mitchell)
Saturday 26th June 2010
Requiem for Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Commemorating the centenary of Florence Nightingale's death
Paul Morgan (organ)
Fauré - Requiem
Bruckner - Os Justi
Wesley - The Wilderness
Parry - I was Glad
Pearsall - Tu es Petrus
Mendelssohn - Hear My Prayer
This must be one of the very best Counterpoint concerts that I have been to. The idea of conceiving a concert around a character or period from the past is not new to your audience but the combination of Florence Nightingale and her wonderful life and service, coupled with those marvellous readings and emotional musical compositions was a worthy achievement.
...I have lost count how many times I have heard Fauré's Requiem over the years but I want to tell you that Counterpoint's performance will live in my memory for ever. The way in which the choir moved with ease between the pianissimo sections and the fortissimo sections was stunning to hear and the soloists were of the very highest quality.
This was a highlight for me as was the first reading, followed by Hear My Prayer. The reading was most touching and enhanced your interesting programme notes and by the beginning of O for the Wings of a Dove, I was looking through a haze of emotional tears. A complete triumph. Well done to you all. (Michael Rybourne)
I think you enabled us to sing in a way which we have rarely managed before! Despite our numbers, we DID achieve those sudden and electric "pianos" and you had us eating out of your hand, from teenagers to "grumpy" oldies!! Not that I heard ANY grumps at all.
I imagine Florence N. will be inextricably linked from now on in peoples' minds with Faure's Requiem and Hear my Prayer, to the advantage of both the pieces and the amazing lady. I have not had chance to read the programme yet, but look forward to doing so. The readings were excellent. (Stella Westwell - Choir Member)
Yet another splendid concert at Buckfast - a lovely selection of music, and I found The Funeral reading most absorbing. How lovely to hear Paul Morgan on the organ - fascinating to watch him at work from up in the Gallery, look forward to hearing him again I hope now that he is 'so-called' retired.
As I have just booked a train trip entitled 'The Crimean Trip' for late April 2011, travelling from St Petersburg down to Yalta, the excellent history contained in the programme seems even more pertinent. I hope that you realize how much many of the audience value the wonderful contents of these programmes, and that we do appreciate how much effort goes into them - they are a history lesson in themselves. Many thanks. (Joy Winzer)
As I stood at the back of the church on my way out, at the end of your beautiful concert in Buckfast Abbey on Saturday, I heard virtually everyone who passed me eulogising on the superb performance we had all just witnessed. I felt lifted up onto a spiritual plain that elevated me high above the drudgery of the day I had just been through!
I can't really express in words how important the choir and your concerts are to me and Jane. On most occasions we feel emotionally drained at the end of the night and your recent inclusion of the gentle parting song really helps to ease us back into reality.
We haven't missed a concert now for twelve years and Counterpoint's Buckfast performances are the highlight of our musical year. (Graham and Jane Sharpe)
Saturday 15th May 2010
The Coronation of King George II, 1727
A Staged Reconstruction
William Child - O Lord, grant the king a long life
George Frideric Handel - A Grand Instrumental Procession
Henry Purcell - I was glad when they said unto me
George Frideric Handel - Coronation Anthem: Let thy hand be
Thomas Tallis - The Five-Part Litany
John Farmer - Come Holy Ghost
George Frideric Handel - Coronation Anthem: Zadok the Priest,
John Blow - Behold, O God our defender
George Frideric Handel - Coronation Anthem: The King Shall
Orlando Gibbons - Te deum, from The Short Service
George Frideric Handel - Coronation Anthem: My heart is
I have seen the Coronation of King George II in concert on two occasions prior to our visit to the Cathedral on Saturday 16th May. Both times it was the Kings Consort and the main difference between your performance and the TKC was the way in which you vividly brought the occasion to life. My husband and I could both imagine what it might have been like to have been there on that glorious day in 1727. The combination of a spoken commentary, coupled with your use of almost every nook and cranny in the Cathedral, created an unique atmosphere that proved a winning combination. The choir sang with sensitivity and fervour and we still find ourselves talking about the evening now, over two weeks later! (Vicky and Michael Eaves)
Thanks for a lovely concert on Saturday. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it from the narration to the trumpets and drums and, of course, the quality singing which is the hallmark of Counterpoint. We have actually not been to one of your concerts in the Cathedral, normally taking our musical pleasures at Buckfast, but I shall have to make a greater effort to come to Exeter in future since the grandeur of the setting gives everything an extra dimension. Concerts for the year are booked into the diary. (Angela and Alan Cooksley)
Saturday evening's concert was superb in every way. I have always admired your attention to detail, none more so than this performance - I felt I was there in the Abbey! Your programme notes and the narration by Ken Parry were superb. An evening which will remain in my memory for a very long time. (Malcolm Pomeroy)
Saturday 6th February 2010
The Life and Times of Queen Elizabeth of York,
wife to King Henry VII (1466-1503)
Kyrie - Antoine Brumel (c.1460-c.1520) from Missa Et ecce terrae
motus (the Earthquake Mass)
Gloria - Antoine Brumel (c.1460-1520) from Missa Et ecce terrae
motus (the Earthquake Mass)
Ah, Robyn - William Cornysh (1465-1523)
Virgo prudentissima - Heinrich Isaac (c.1450-1517)
Je ne puis vivre ainsy - Antoine Busnois (1430-1492)
Pourquoi non - Pierre de la Rue (1469-1518)
Tota pulchra es - John Plummer (c.1410-1484)
Sanctus and Benedictus - Antoine Brumel (c.1460-c.1520) from
Missa Et ecce terrae motus (the Earthquake Mass)
Parce mihi - Jacob Obrecht (1450-1505)
Kyrie from Missa L'homme armé - Johannes Ockeghem (1420-1497)
Ave Maria Mater Dei - William Cornysh (1465-1523)
Agnus Dei - Antoine Brumel (c.1460-1520) from Missa Et ecce terrae
motus (the Earthquake Mass)
Once again we feel we must make contact to express our gratitude to you and Counterpoint for the wonderful concert on Saturday evening in Buckfast Abbey. The most important thing you have done for Wendy and I is to open our ears and minds to so many new and wonderful composers. Over the years you and the choir have helped us discover a new world of music that we could never have come across without your invaluable contribution to the Devon music-scene.
Antoine Brumel was a name I had not come across until last night but what a revelation? The beauty and power of the composition was electrifying and we were both left marvelling at how such music could have been conceived and then written down for eternity in the late 1400s.
The Isaac was very exciting and we thought the small group pieces were a masterstroke. (Eric and Wendy Hampshire)
... What a wonderful piece of music the Brumel Earthquake Mass is – 12 voices all singing at one time to create a huge wall of sound. Brumel would give composers of the 21st century a good run for their money! (Mike Gundry)
... and then there was the Isaac motet, Virgo prudentissima. I first heard you sing this nigh-on 15 years ago! It was full of rhythm and vitality. We both thought that this was one of the highlights of your wonderful concert on 6th February. (Paul Tait)
... The older, small group works were my favourite part of the evening. Busnois, Obrecht, Plummer and Ockeghem – where do you find all this long-forgotten composers? Thank you for bringing them to my attention. Thank you also for singing in the Cornysh motet yourself, David – I think the last time Dora and I heard you singing with Counterpoint was the same work in the early 1990s! (Ralph Dawson)
We were so excited to be able to hear the Earthquake Mass, live. We have two versions of it on CD but never thought we would get the opportunity to hear it sung live by Counterpoint. What a feast of sounds – it reminded me, in parts, very much of Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis. (Tom Hook)
Choral Music from Medieval to Modern