Please scroll down for Concerts & Reviews from 2008 & 2009!
Tour of Brittany
Included a concert at Locmaria Church, 24th October
The Reproaches - John Sanders (1933-2004)
Sleep - Eric Whitacre (b.1970)
Haec Dies - William Byrd (1543-1623)
In spiritu humilitatis - Giovanni Croce (1557-1609)
Circumdederunt me dolores - Padilla (c.1590-1664)
Miserere mei, Deus - Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652)
Latin Magnificat for 2 choirs - Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
Water Night - Eric Whitacre (b.1970)
Versa est in luctum - Alonso Lobo (c.1555-1617)
Ave Maria - Robert Parsons (d.1570)
Os justi - Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
Vox dicentis: Clama - Edward Naylor (1867-1934)
Review from Le Telegramme 26 October 2009
Once again, the public flocked to the church of Locmaria on Saturday evening to hear Counterpoint, the vocal ensemble directed by David Acres. Since 1991, these singers from Exeter have been visiting Brittany every two years, entertaining their many singing friends. This was the case on Saturday.
The ‘speciality’ of this choir, composed of semi professional singers, is its colour. Piece after piece, the celestial voices of the sopranos soared above the deeper timbre of the gentlemen, each moment most moving.
Counterpoint also possesses the art of nuance at a very high level. Thus the very beautiful Sleep by the modern composer Whitacre was a true marvel. The voices begin quietly, as in a gentle lullaby, then little by little the radiance shines more loudly to finish once again as a lullaby.
In the second part of the programme, the choir performed their interpretation of Water Night, another piece by Whitacre which was equally wonderful.
Meanwhile, the famous Miserere of Allegri resounded beneath the Norman vaulting. Skilfully distributed in different parts of the building, the main choir and the quartet responded to each other and played with the polyphony.
These beautiful voices were again united through performances of other pieces written by composers such as Padilla, Lobo and Parsons, again filled with shimmering light and shade.
Os Justi by Bruckner had a joyous, seductive style and the Vox Dicentis by Naylor concluded the programme magnificently.
An encore, by Elgar, another favourite composer of David Acres and his singers placed the final note on this very beautiful concert.
Saturday 10th October 2009
A Banquet of Voices
James Bowman (countertenor)
Dorothy Linell (lute)
Many highly praising comments were received. Here are just three:
I don't usually write to let my feelings be known but in this instance I am making the exception. The concert last night in Buckfast Abbey with James Bowman and Counterpoint was quite superb. The excitement was tangible and the beauty and blend of your choir must be the envy of all other choir members who come to hear you. You were able to draw out of your singers huge depths of pathos that was ravishing to hear. I have not heard James Bowman sing publically before and I found it a profound and moving experience. My wife's sister told me he must be 65 and I find it incredible that he is able to sing with such authority and beauty. Marvellous!
Please make sure that you keep me informed of your future productions. (Edward Gower)
I have been coming to hear your wonderful choir for over 15 years. What I love about Counterpoint is that I never leave a performance without feeling moved and elated. Saturday 10th October was a remarkable achievement. I love James Bowman's voice and being based in Kingsbridge, now in my retirement, I do not get the opportunity to venture too far afield to hear soloists of Mr Bowman's calibre. I was deeply moved by his performance and in particular the Dowland song, Time stands still. Drop, drop slow tearsby Orlando Gibbons was a pure delight.
I was most impressed by the Whitacre pieces and I thought the Stanford double choir Latin Magnificat was fantastic. The acoustics of the building are just right for these dramatic works and the Allegri Miserere was stunning; I loved the staging of this with the verse soloist really excelling on those fantastic soaring top Cs.
I hope the tour of Brittany goes well. I have spoken to my friends, the Dawsons, who live in Concarneau and told then that they must come and see Counterpoint when you're over there. (Calvin Frobisher)
...The contrasts between James Bowman and the choir couldn't have been more dramatic. The power and resonance of his voice have not been dimmed by time and my wife and I were in unison with the sentiments to be found in the words of Drop, drop slow tears - blinking back our own tears as James sung so beautifully! Our musical calendar would not be complete without our tri-annual visit to Buckfast Abbey to hear Counterpoint sing. (Barry & Yvonne Yeats)
Saturday 20th June 2009
Saturday 4th July 2009
The Glories of Venice I & II
the Counterpoint Brass Ensemble
Crediton Parish Church
"Aren't Counterpoint absolutely superb!" my friend remarked to me as we left Buckfast Abbey last Saturday, heavenly music still ringing in our ears. And there is no doubt - they absolutely are, superb! The experiment paid off, the audience were thrilled, we are all hoping for more - and actually already looking forward to the Cathedral concert in May 2010 with the choir and the Counterpoint Brass players!
The Glories of Venice was something completely different from the previous musicfests delivered by this talented and brilliantly-directed choir. The choice of programme which was comprised of compositions by Gabrieli, Croce, Monteverdi, Ugolini and Merulo was not only exciting but for some of us a welcome introduction to a new musical sound. Buckfast Abbey is a wonderful venue for these musical experiences anyway - but for this combination of brass and choral music it was quite stunning. The audience applauded until every last member of the group was out of sight and didn't seem to want to stop!
Once again we say "thank you" to Counterpoint and director David Acres for giving us a joyful evening which was both soothing and uplifting! See you, everyone - at Buckfast Abbey on Saturday 10th October, for A Banquet of Voices with James Bowman! (Annette van Oppen)
Just a line to congratulate you on last week's Buckfast Abbey concert. It really was a very exciting concert, made more so by the clever use of the building in performance. Gabrieli's Exaudi me Domine was so dramatic an opening half way down the Quire, allowing full resonance of the building and the contrast with Ugolini's Quae est istacouldn't have been greater. I'm not sure we would have heard the 'rippling' entries had you used the brass as well, as originally planned?
The whole evening was electric ... much enhanced by the splendid brass. Well done! (Paul Homes)
Saturday 16th May 2009
Messiah - Handel
Commemorating the 250th anniversary
of Handel's death in 1759
Mary Bevan (soprano)
David Martin (countertenor)
Thomas Hobbs (tenor)
Stuart Young (bass)
After the last breath of music had died away, I got the feeling that every single person in the audience would like to have been able to personally thank every single musician for tonight's glorious performance of Handel's Messiah at Exeter Cathedral. Many people were moved to tears at times and everyone was exclaiming - even during the interval - that this was a marvellous musical experience.
Of all the productions of this work that I have heard, this one was the most magical, showed the most musical talent and will remain in my memory for evermore.
You drew every last drop of musicianship out of your people and the result was moments of exciting drama as well as perfect harmony. The relationship between the gifted and enthusiastic choral and solo singers and the superbly talented members of Divertimento was remarkable - and it was absolutely obvious that this was inspired by your leadership and passion for musical presentation of quality. You also demonstrated that bigger is not always better - in fact, in this instance, quality was far better than quantity!
This last was also exemplified by your excellent programme notes.
I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say thank you all so much! (Annette van Oppen)
Thank you for inviting me to come and sing, I really enjoyed myself. The cathedral is beautiful and a pleasure to sing in, but mainly I enjoyed listening to the choir. They sang so musically and made sense of the words in a way you don't hear often with choirs! They obviously know you and understand your direction very well. The band were also a pleasure to sing with - responsive and sensitive.
I know what you mean about the Messiah coming across as a story. It is just that, so when it's performed sensitively I think it really works. It would be the same with the St John and St Mathew Passions, which I expect your group would do very well.
Do please ask me back in the future - I would love to sing for you again.
Mary (Mary Bevan, the soprano soloist)
Rosemary and I just wanted to say how very much we enjoyed Counterpoint's performance of Handel's Messiah. It was a truly wonderful evening. We certainly had one of the best positions in the Cathedral and it was thrilling to hear the soloists and choir at close quarters!
We were both very moved by the performance. The Messiah is undoubtedly one of the most performed (and the most cherished) of Handel's oratorios and yet we both agreed that last night's performance came over with a freshness in both interpretation and meaning, and we can honestly say that when the tenor Thomas Hobbs took his place and started singing the first recitative 'Comfort ye my people', we both felt near to tears. He is blessed with such a wonderful voice, rich in clarity and expression, and it was a joy to listen to him. We were equally enthralled by the other young soloists all of whom are, we are sure, on the verge of promising careers.
The accompanying musicians were excellent and it was lovely to be able to see and hear them perform so clearly. I was impressed by the double-bass player who worked hard all evening and really made her instrument sing!
We thought Counterpoint delivered a beautifully balanced sound for the choral sections and the Hallelujah Chorus and Amen Chorus will echo in our hearts and minds for many years to come! It was truly a memorable evening and you, as Musical Director, and the choir are a great asset to Exeter's musical heritage.
On a final note we are so pleased that Counterpoint has generously undertaken to stage a concert each year in May to assist directly with the welfare and scholarships of the Boy and Girl Choristers. We are strong supporters of the Choral tradition at the Cathedral and fully agree with your heartfelt sentiments expressed in the programme notes concerning the need to protect that tradition for generations to come. We are more than happy to support you in any way we can and we look forward to coming to many more concerts in the future. (Adrian and Rosemary Francis)
...what a triumph the concert on Saturday was!!!!!
Well done, all of you, on a truly magnificent performance. I think you surpassed yourselves and do so hope you all felt the same. Everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves!
You seem to make light work of conducting such a mighty piece - how do you do it?! you are obviously an inspiration to the choir. I do very much like watching conductors - so many different styles.
The soloists were just superb, as usual, but these were quite special, just perfect for the work and all had such wonderful delivery. And how special that the three men had such personal connections! ...It will be interesting to follow the progress of Mary Bevan as she moves further into her career - she really was quite lovely to watch and hear.
We were quite moved by your comments regarding the Cathedral Choir and School in the programme - a heartfelt message.
Thank you so much, for a truly lovely evening. We look forward to the next concert. (Mary)
Saturday 7th February 2009
The Life and Times
of King Philip II of Spain,
My daughter and I had the very great pleasure of attending your recent concert at the Abbey (7th February 2009). It truly was an evening of sublime music making that we are still coming down from. I also have to say that your ending to the concert was inspired making a very fitting and dignified finale. (Paul Martin)
What a wonderful evening we had at Buckfast Abbey yesterday...
The setting in the Abbey was superb and we thought the programme you compiled around the life and times of King Philip II of Spain was a wonderful blend of some of the finest music of the sixteenth century as well as being an informative and interesting history lesson! We are both very keen on early choral music and wish we had become acquainted with Counterpoint at an earlier time. It was good to hear works by some of the lesser-known composers - Rosemary was taken by the Ave Maria by Robert Parsons and I particularly enjoyed the last two pieces by Padilla and Lobo, both of which were very moving.
We were very impressed with the wonderful blend of voices and the dynamics of the choir, altogether very pleasing to the ear and the soul! It was a delight to sit there in the beautiful setting of the Abbey and to allow the music to transport us to a different world and to another time in history - and yet I think the music has lost none of its resonance in today's world.
We are already looking forward to your concert in May at Exeter Cathedral and will keep our eyes open for future events. If possible, could you please include us on your e-mailing list? (Adrian and Rosemary Francis)
David Acres brought the Counterpoint choir to perfection for Saturday evening's performance of music composed during the reign of Philip II of Spain. Wave after wave of glorious sound washed over us and echoed around the wonderful venue of Buckfast Abbey, giving us comfort, joy and pure pleasure.
The way the choir chose to end the performance by singing Remember, O Thou Man as the parting song as they slowly moved out of the choirstalls, enabled us to depart from the Abbey respectfully and with the haunting sounds of this marvellous choir remaining in our minds for the journey home and beyond.
Congratulations to everyone involved and especially those members who were caught out by the snow on Telegraph Hill, while wending their way home after a rehearsal during the week. (Annette van Oppen)
I wanted to pass on how much Sue and her friend enjoyed the Philip II of Spain concert. They found it electrifying, with the Padilla, Byrd, Parsons and Guerrero from the first half and all the second half getting particularly favourable mention. Best of all - and I'm sure you'll get other people's similar opinion - the Ravenscroft at the end was spellbinding. It left the Abbey hushed at the end, with people too stunned to talk in anything but appreciative whispers.
After his first concert with Counterpoint in the Cathedral in 2004, James Bowman made the comment that the piece he had most enjoyed was the Gibbon's Drop, drop slow tears: a similar example of how potent a simply constructed work can be in comparison to what has gone before.
Another observation from the audience was that the balance seemed better with the choir in the stalls. (Stephen Block - a choir member)
Friday 7th November 2008
Appearing with the folk group
"Show of Hands"
Comments forwarded to us from the Show of Hands manager:
Please could you pass on our sincere thanks to Show Of Hands for the most beautiful evening at the Exeter Cathedral last night, we didn't want the evening to end. A fabulous atmosphere with the sound and lighting absolutely perfect together. Thank you for introducing us to music of the Counterpoint choir, they made the night very special. The four songs chosen for Remembrance Day was very moving and Nimrod sung by the choir brought a few tears to the eyes. We shall be enjoying this evening for a very long time. (Kaye)
'For sheer atmosphere, that can only be matched by the Albert Hall! Really beautiful...thank you so much to everyone involved...'
'Well if Topsham was stunning, Exeter was doubly so - the choir, the acoustics and the lighting were magical, Steve, Phil and Miranda weren't bad either!'
'...the inclusion of the choir's Lux aeterna (taken from the Latin words to the Requiem service) was a masterstroke, being placed after the Somme medley - it had my wife and I in tears!. It was a wonderful evening of music and atmosphere.'
Saturday 18th October 2008
A concert to commemorate the
50th Anniversary of the
death of Ralph Vaughan Williams
James Bowman (countertenor)
The Divertimento String Ensemble
What a 'transport of delight'. We had decided to stay put over the weekend of 18th/19th October and have a lazy time at home but friends from Brixham in Torbay persuaded us to stay with them over the period and we found our way to Buckfast Abbey, by chance, on Saturday evening. Your concert that evening was superb. I have not heard the Vaughan Williams Mass in G minor since I sung it in my early 20s in London. Your performance was electrifying and we were on the edge of our seats with anticipation. The Lauridsen and Whitacre were exquisite: the structure and quality of the Whitacre and the uplifting and exultant melody of the Lauridsen were extremely well realised. (Michael Eastward)
This is the third time I have seen James Bowman in Buckfast Abbey with Counterpoint and I was so pleased I came to hear you all. I first heard James Bowman sing in Oxford nigh on forty years ago but in the singing of Linden Lea, those forty years just seemed to melt away! The choir's interpretation of the Vaughan Williams Mass and the American composers' works were excellent and I can still hear several of the tunes playing in my head. (Derek Le Grys)
I just had to write to congratulate you for the concert you gave yesterday evening. It was a wonderful programme of music and the performance was at times deeply moving. The Whitacre (who I'd not heard of before) was sublime. I look forward to hearing you again. (Lawrence Kelson)
I've been meaning to email you to say thank you for making that wonderful concert possible. All the people I got tickets for were absolutely blown over. And yes, most of them mentioned the Whitacre and Lauridsen, particularly... oh, and the VW. During the interval, my father-in-law said to me, "Of all the concerts we could have gone to, we were just saying this is the best one." I think they were very surprised, as they are not fond of modern music. And of course, neither am I... BUT as a 'strictly' renaissance girl, I, personally, was amazed at what a good and fulfilling concert it was to perform in. Lauridsen and Whitacre are now high on my list of good guys! (Nini Davies - soprano in Counterpoint)
The Counterpoint concert on 18th October was, arguably, the best ever. My brother, at one stage, started thumping on the front pew and shouting 'more' to James Bowman - not refined behaviour but just about sums it up, I think. (Dr Roger Onyett)
Saturday 17th May 2008
Masters of the Baroque
Michael Chance (countertenor)
The Divertimento String Ensemble
Andrew Millington (organ)
George Pratt (harpsichord)
Richard Pratt (trumpet)
What a revelation the Bach Chorales were. I know Bach's main three Passions well and I would offer the choir full marks for their interpretation of these three beautiful works. To illicit such emotion and tenderness from short and seemingly ephemeral compositions is the true mark of a choir's ability. I also loved the style and panache to be found in the Ugolini and Caldara. (Tom Evans)
Thank you for bringing Michael Chance to Exeter Cathedral. I haven't heard Michael since the late 1990s and strangely enough that was also a performance of Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus. The quite breathtaking delivery in the slow section drew the audience into his inner-space and left us all quite drained.
I particularly liked the Gloria. The speeds were timed to perfection and the combination of choir, soloists and string ensemble was a real triumph. This was the first time we have come to a Counterpoint concert but I know it will not be the last.
What my wife wants to know is, 'how come we live in Exeter but have not read anything about you over the past 20 years?' (Stanley Heard)
Only in this cathedral, with this choral group under this musical Director, on this day [the writer's highlights] - could such heavenly music have been created for the enchantment of the listeners. The extraordinary voice and breath control of Michael Chance singing For so he giveth his beloved sleep [from Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus] took us on to another plane and the choir produced what was probably their finest rendition of the Matthew Passion Chorale No 15 by Bach - Receive me, my Redeemer. It was simply divine. The musical direction of David Acres made its magic once again and everyone left the Cathedral uplifted. (Annette van Oppen)
Saturday 8th March 2008
Requiem for Mary Queen of Scots
Yet another unforgettable evening given by Counterpoint. The two tours de forcerenditions in the first half of Victoria's Ave Maria and de Rore's Parce Mihi, Dominecertainly took this listener to another plane. Also a very interesting episode of comparison with the works of Tallis and Cavazzoni. The second half's thread of Victoria's Requiemthroughout gave a nice ebb and flow to the performance while Gabrielli's Ricerarebrought out the sunny side of organ recital and shows that walking in this era of composition, you can turn a corner and find a gem. Not the first time David Acres and Counterpoint have done this. The masterful Tallis' In Manus Tuas completed a most enjoyable experience. (Michael Brech)
Those who were lucky enough to be at Buckfast Abbey on the evening of Saturday, 8 March, had the sombre but nevertheless uplifting experience of Counterpoint fulfilling a challenging and extensive programme of simply beautiful music commemorating the sad but extraordinary life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
This "chamber choir" responds to an outstanding Director in David Acres and when he asks them for it, they give it - "in spades" - to the great joy of their devotees, who are evermore thrilled and delighted by what can only be described as a unique experience.
Whoever said it was correct - to hear Counterpoint perform is a "fix" worth travelling miles through the rain for - and many people do just that! (Annette van Oppen)
Choral Music from Medieval to Modern