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of our 2012 concerts!
Friday 21st December 2012
The Christmas Story - Carol Concert
Chulmleigh Parish Church
Counterpoint performed the majority of their 2012 Christmas CD Gaudete, interspersed with readings.
E'en so Lord Jesus, quickly come
Quem pastores laudavere
Ding dong merrily on high
In dulci jubilo
There is no rose of such virtue
Infant holy, infant lowly
The Three Kings
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny Child
The Coventry Carol
Away in a manger
The Infant King
Jesus Christ the apple tree
Up good Christen folk and listen
I wander as I wonder
O little one sweet
What a huge success last night’s concert proved to be. I didn’t doubt it would be when one knows oneself just how good a choir is, but one always wonders how others will view it!
So many people complimented me afterwards on such wonderful singing: "its the best choir we have heard in our church" was such a common remark, that I felt very proud of you all.
You could tell by their manner that everyone had had an exceptional evening, a wonderful way to start their Christmas ... the carols sounded quite breath-taking in the building.
... [Counterpoint's] singing is really quite exceptional, they clearly enjoy singing under your direction and their enjoyment as well as professionalism is so evident in their performance. Do tell them when next you gather how VERY much they have been appreciated here and how very grateful we are to them. (Paul Holmes - concert organiser)
Saturday 13th October 2012
An Evening of Handel
Divertimento String Ensemble
David Davies (organ)
What though I trace each herb and flower, from Solomon
As with rosy steps the morn advancing, from Theodora
O Lord, whose mercies numberless, from Saul
Father of heaven, from Judas Maccabaeus
Messiah – excerpts
My Heart is Inditing (Coronation Anthem)
Zadok the Priest
Although James was undeniably the star of the show, There was also equally stellar choral singing by David Acres' Counterpoint choir. The whole programme was billed as An Evening of Handel. It opened and closed with anthems from Handel's Music for the Coronation of King George II. The main part of the concert was made up of excerpts from Handel's oratorio The Messiah - the perfect complement to James' Handel arias.
Despite the extensive building work which is going on in the Abbey, involving scaffolding, tarpaulins, and harsh temporary strip lighting, the instrumentalists and singers dazzled the audience with their musical brilliance from the very first note.
My Heart is Inditing
The concert began with the sound of the Divertimento string quartet and David Davies playing the organ. The opening instrumental phrases echoed the rhythm of the words My Heart is Inditing while a distinguished figure was seen leaving the bass section on the right of the choir and joining the tenors on the left.
It was Julian Rippon, who joined tenor Edward Woodhouse, alto Juliet Curnow and soprano Daisy Walford to sing the solo line in four voices. First Julian, then Juliet, sang the opening line before joining in duet. Then suddenly Daisy's soprano voice began the process again, closely followed by Edward's tenor.
What a start! Those four singers, with their incredibly powerful voices, filled the Abbey with beautiful sound. The full force of the choir then made itself felt, lovingly controlled by musical director, David Acres. The anthem continued through four movements, lasting nearly a quarter hour. During that time all distractions, including dust sheets and strip lights, were forgotten as the sound of the choir commanded everyone's full attention.
There were no trumpets for the final fanfare - just a jubilant concord of exhilarating sound as the choir sang the words of Isaiah chapter 49 - 'Kings shall be your nursing fathers, and Queens your nursing mothers!'. A thrilling close.
Solomon and Theodora
As the choir retired and filed into the benches of the choir-stalls, a familiar figure made his way to the front of the quire - James Bowman. After a brief introduction, with David Davis playing the bass, and the string quartet providing the treble, James sang a beautiful aria from Handel's oratorio Solomon - continuing the theme of Kings.
James sang Solomon's air from the end of act 1 of Solomon, 'What though I trace each herb and flower', which was sung at the première in 1749 by mezzo soprano Caterina Galli. A 'trouser rôle' sung by a man - and in an exquisite countertenor voice. As clear and as enchanting as ever, James' soft tones, sometimes in duet with Vicky's 'cello, expressed the mood perfectly - all the world's beauty cannot compare with the glory of Jehovah.
James then moved on to another of Caterina Galli's Handel opera rôles, in Princess Theodora. Theodora's companion Irene sings the now famous aria 'As with rosy steps the morn advancing'. Caterina Galli played Irene in the première of 'Theodora' in 1750. James was as convincing playing Irene as he was playing Solomon. This time the admiration of God's creation being tempered with the defiance of an alternative belief system. Handel - and Caterina Galli herself - would have been impressed by the tenderness and determination of James' delivery.
Then followed nine choruses from Handel's 'Messiah', interrupted only by the interval - and a marvellous recitative by tenor Edward Woodhouse, 'All they that see him, laugh him to scorn' which continues 'They shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying . . . ', before their final chorus mocking, 'He trusted in God, that he would deliver him.'
Highlights of the Evening of Handel included Juliet Curnow's alto voice breaking through the bass in 'And He shall purify', amazing tenor singing in 'His yolk is easy', and the inexorable fugue of 'All we like sheep have gone astray' which really made the most of the powerful bass voices. The altos excelled too with the countertenors impressively audible from the second row.
Saul and Judas Maccabaeus
After all that excitement Brenda Willoughby muted her violin for something very gentle from James Bowman. In soft plaintive tones James, as the prospective King David, begs that the 'fiend' that has possessed King Saul will be brought under control by God, 'O Lord, whose mercies numberless'. For the reprise of each line he managed to interject a series of grace notes as sweet as birdsong - delighting the audience each time.
As his parting gift, James sang 'Father of Heaven' from Act III of 'Judas Maccabaeus'. The gentle introduction by the Divertimento quartet gave way to James' exhilaratingly tender appeal to the Hebrew God to look down with blessing on the preparations 'to solomnise the Feast of Lights'. James' exquisitely sweet voice, and delightful diction, were infused with all the passion implied in the momentous story.
Time stands still, and history is brought close when we hear such beautiful music.
This was James' last performance of the evening and, seventeen months after his official retirement concert at Wigmore Hall, possibly his last major public performance in Devon. What a perfect choice of music, and what an expressive performance, for such a special moment.
Hallelujah and Zadok the Priest
To bring the Abbey back to it's Christian role, and send everyone away with a spring in their step, the Choir then sang three of Handel's best known and most popular choruses - 'Hallelujah' and 'Worthy is the Lamb' from The Messiah, and the anthem Zadok the Priestfrom the coronation of George II. Always thrilling, these choruses were especially moving when performed by the extraordinary voices of Counterpoint choir under the expressive direction of another countertenor - David Acres.
The builders' scaffolding might have obscured the beautiful stonework of the Abbey, but it could not detract from the exceptional beauty of the music that Saturday night. During its twenty-five years, Counterpoint has seen many superb vocalists amongst its ranks, and has always been synonymous with glorious music in Devon. The addition of an honoured international opera star - the wonderfully expressive countertenor, James Bowman - made this a truly memorable evening for everyone - 'an Evening of Handel'.
James Bowman will now be enjoying his well deserved retirement - or might we hear him sing again some time? Juliet Curnow is taking up her new post in Gloucestershire and will not sing with Counterpoint at their forthcoming concerts. It is hard to express the gratitude that is due to Juliet, who has performed so many parts for so many choral societies, orchestras, and individual events.
And, of course, we look forward to more outstanding choral music from - Counterpoint.
(Classical Journey – text and photos)
Saturday 7th July 2012
The Journey from Medieval to Renaissance 3
Counterpoint's third and final concert in the series
The Journey from Medieval to Renaissance
St Anselm, Lucca c.1080 – Plainsong: Salve Regina(Hail, holy Queen)
Magister Petronius, Notre Dame c.1190 – Beata viscera Marie Virginis (Mary's blessed flesh)
Alfonso X ("El Sabio" – The Wise) Castille c.1260 – Virgen Santa Maria (Holy Virgin Mary)
York Mystery Plays c.1350 – 2 excerpts
John Dunstaple, Bedford c.1425 – Quam pulcra es (How beautiful you are)
Guillaume Dufay, Cambrai c.1460 – Alma redemptoris mater (Saviour's loving mother)
Josquin des Prez, Rome c.1490 – Ave Maria (Hail Mary)
John Taverner, Lincolnshire c.1520 – O Christe Jesu, pastor bone (Good shepherd, Jesus)
Jacob Clemens non Papa, Belgium c.1530 – Ego Flos Campi (I am the flower of the field)
Thomas Tallis, London/Canterbury c.1540 – O sacrum convivium (O sacred banquet)
John Sheppard, London c.1550 – Media Vita (In the midst of life) - a 20 minute epic!
William Byrd, London c.1575 – Ave verum corpus(Hail true body)
Orlando Gibbons, London c.1610 – O clap your hands (Psalm 47)
This Counterpoint concert really was the highlight of the week! A concert in the true 'Classical Journey' tradition. Each piece of glorious choral music succeeded the last by a few decades as we progressed from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries.
With the side aisles closed off for some kind of repair work, the audience were restricted to the central nave, while the choir could range freely in the transepts and the quire.
The opening Salve Regina from c.1020 was delivered with captivating clarity by a very special alto singer – Juliet Curnow. Juliet is a member of Counterpoint Choir, and is well-known throughout the South West for her solo singing.
Next another alto, Harry Castle, sang the Beata Viscera Marie Virginis. (Imagine for yourself.) Harry has recently risen to prominence – a founder member of our new Exeter choir 'Leofric Consort'.
To the beat of a tambourine, from choir-member Colin Avery, the whole choir sang the beautiful Virgen Santa Maria by the great Castillian King El Sabio. (It's now the thirteenth century.)
Then came three York Mystery Plays from the fourteenth century. Josie Walledge's voice – familiar from her many concerts with Laurence Blyth – was joined by another soprano. Mary O'Shea? – not this time. The second voice was an established 'Counterpoint' favourite, Daisy Walford (now an established 'Leofric Consort' favourite!)
Fifteenth century and another alto performance – by Leofric pianist Frazier MacDiarmid. Quam Pulchra Est. (Did I mention that there was a 'Virgin Mary' theme?), together with Ed Woodhouse and Charlie Hughes.
Almost the whole Leofric ensemble – alto Harry Castle, tenor Edward Woodhouse and baritone Andrew Henley, joined forces for Guillaume Dufay's great Alma Redemptoris Mater.
Finally the choir polished off the fifteenth and edged into the sixteenth century with Josquin des Prez' Ave Maria and Taverner's O Christe Jesu, Pastor Bone.
No great interval entertainments take place at the Abbey. The audience are more than happy to chat amongst themselves while the choir take a short break ...
Then ... the great Ego Flos Campi (I am the Flower of the Field) by Jacob Clemens ('non Papa') for Seven voices – sopranos Josie Walledge and Mary O'Shea (it was definitely Mary this time!), alto Juliet Curnow, tenors Jason Bomford and Edward Woodhouse, and basses Matt Cann and Michael Vian Clarke. What a combination!
Having fully justified the price of admission, David Acres and Counterpoint proceeded to give the audience more that they could possibly expect or hope for. After a gentle rendition of Thomas Tallis's O Sacrum Convivium, the choir launched into a twenty minute expedition into John Sheppard's Media Vita (In the midst of life we are in death). So many positive comments from audience members:
'We were sent to another (and better) place'.
'It was beautiful'.
'It flowed in waves that flowed and came back'.
'The waves flowed up and over and back'.
'The music rose and sank like a ship'.
'It was mesmeric'.
'It was all-absorbing and all-encompassing'
'It was so much more than we expected - more and more!'
What made it so special was the combination of not four or six, but EIGHT different voices. The altos were constrained to sing abnormally low at times – while the tenors reached to their highest notes. This piece is rarely attempted (because of its complexity), but David Acres and the Counterpoint Choir were the ones to attempt it – a soaring success!
Almost as a footnote – but quite up to the superlative standard we expect from Counterpoint – the last two pieces brought the audience gently back down to earth. Byrd's Ave Verum Corpus and then ended with a flourish with Gibbons' O Clap Your Hands. After that gentle wind-down, David Acres closed the concert in his traditional way – bringing the Abbey back to its proper purpose as a house of prayer. The choir sang and Jason Bomford's beautiful tenor voice rang out from the second row when he took the solo second verse with another even more familiar song by Orlando Gibbons – Drop, Drop, Slow Tears. What a beautiful end to a very special concert. (Classical Journey – text and photos)
Saturday 19th May 2012
Requiem – Mozart
Lux Aeterna – Lauridsen
Sanctus – Ola Gjeilo
David Davies (organ)
at Exeter Cathedral
The Annual Counterpoint Bursary Fund concert for
Girl and Boy Choristers. The concert included the first
South-West performance of Sanctus by Ola Gjeilo (Youtube link).
There was a very select gathering at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 19th May for the long-awaited return of David Acres' choir, 'Counterpoint'. With all seats removed from the side-aisles, the choir stood in a loose semi-circle on the stone flags of the transept crossing, facing a capacity audience in the nave.
High above them, organist David Davies sat at the console of the mighty Loosemoore organ - which has been in operation, with more recent additions, for three and a half centuries. At a pre-arranged signal from David Acres the organ rang out and the great mass began. Sopranos to the left, altos to the right, and tenors and basses behind, the voices combined perfectly.
First they sang Mozart's great Mass in D minor. In the Introit, one voice soared above the others. Soprano soloist Denise Kehoe. Later she was joined by the familiar and beautiful voices of alto Juliet Curnow, tenor Edward Woodhouse and bass Julian Rippon. A wonderful combination, and a magnificent performance of the mass by the choir.
After a break the choir returned for two pieces without soloists, Morten Lauridsens's Lux Aeternaand Ola Gjeilo's Sanctus. Two lovely pieces to complete the programme.
The concert was everything the audience expected, spiritually moving and musically perfect. So many talented singers combining their voices under the gentle and confident guidance of David Acres. David Davies should also get a mention for his perfect organ accompaniment.
All proceeds went to the bursary fund for young boy and girl choristers at the Cathedral. That investment will ensure that future generations can enjoy choral music of the same high quality as Counterpoint's Mass in D minor. (Classical Journey)
Just to say that my sister Mary and I enjoyed the Counterpoint concert on Saturday immensely. After the youthful vigour of Mozart it was hugely satisfying to hear the Laurisden and Gjeilo pieces. I found myself homing in on the bass line at one point, wondering how they made some of those chords work! A great accomplishment and a lovely setting in the cathedral. Many thanks for your invitation. I'm glad I was still here in Devon. (Henry Brighouse)
I didn’t really have a chance to offer my congratulations, once again, on a superb concert. The combination of the Mozart with the two modern composers was inspired and it worked well - there were a number of times that I had tears rolling down my cheeks; always a good sign that the required impact has been achieved! (Richard Cann)
We really enjoyed the concert last night. Fantastic. Although I love the Mozart Requiem, the contrast with the Lauridsen made me realise that I actually like the latter one better. With the Mozart it's all very exciting but also turbulent, whereas with the Lauridsen it all seems very gentle and full of promise - really the way one hopes to go at the end. (Marieke Biggs)
Thanks for a great concert this evening. This is the first time I have heard Counterpoint live. Wonderful choir, beautiful interpretation of the Mozart, so familiar yet it always had something new. The new music in the second half was spine tingling, both Gjeilo's Sanctus and Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna - yep - it was a fab gig! (Sarah Pressland)
Brilliant concert from start to finish. I believe some people stayed at home and watched football instead, how daft is that! (Nigel Dutt)
We love Mozart's Requiem, with all it's excitement and fire, coupled with it's gentleness and instantly memorable choruses. Your interpretation on Saturday night was full of break-neck speeds and spat out, powerful phrases; coupled with tender moments like smoothly lilting Lacrimosa brought a new and vibrant urgency to the piece. However, the revelation for us both was just how well the Lauridsen Lux aeterna contrasted with this.
The Mozart's 'fire and brimstone' approach was washed away by the beautifully written and rising lines of the Lauridsen. Here truly is the hope and beauty of God's Kingdom, encapsulated in this stunning tour de force. The sopranos weaving and rising lines almost lifted us heavenwards and the whole choir took us to another place. It was the anniversary of my Father's death last week and this achingly beautiful work brought tears to our eyes and we say to you once again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for bringing such emotional and exquisite music to us time after time.
The Gjeilo was a real 'find' and we have already explored several other pieces by him since the night. (Nicholas Tredwell)
Saturday 11th February 2012
In Memoriam: Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612)
The concert traced the short life and times of Henry through music, together with a re-creation of his funeral in Westminster Abbey on 7th December 1612.
Gibbons – Drop, drop slow tears
Morley – Funeral Sentences 1
Byrd – Come, to me grief for ever
Ravenscroft – Remember, O thou man
Morley – Nolo mortem peccatoris
Ramsey – When David heard
Gibbons – O Lord, in the wrath
Lobo – Versa est in luctum
Weelkes – Laboravi in gemitu
Padilla – Circumdederunt me dolores
Morley – Funeral Sentences 2
Weelkes – When David heard
Byrd – Ave verum
Byrd – Ne irascaris
Tomkins – Almighty God, fountain of all goodness
Final plainsong chant – Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord
... Another night to remember from your wonderful choir! This period of music so suits the emotion and character of Counterpoint and Jean and I were so pleased that you re-staged the concert that you originally performed in 2004 - yes, we were one of the people who asked you about re-running it when we saw you last year at the James Bowman concert.
The choir seemed very well balanced and as I've said on numerous occasions, if there's ever an opening on the Bass line, please let me know! Music of great depth, style and beauty, brought to life by our favourite choir, what more could we ask. (Nicholas and Jean Painter)
I had been told about your choir, and this concert in particular, by a very dear friend who has recently passed away. She had heard the concert performed in the early 2000s and told us we must come. We are so glad that we did.
I haven't heard the Morley Funeral Sentences since I was a boy at St Paul's Cathedral - did you know there is a short Third Sentence? This simple yet plaintive music was so beautifully sung, we were both very moved by the emotions it brought to us.
The differences between the Ramsey, Tomkins and Ramsey When David heard anthems was a masterstroke, showing clearly the different ways the text was set and the way in which those great masters each brought something different to those most moving of words. It was also good to hear the complete Byrd anthem, Ne irascaris and his haunting Come to me grief forever. Thank you. (Peter Mudge)
Choral Music from Medieval to Modern