This week’s first church visit has been to St Mary-le-Bow, which was smashed to smithereens in 1941 but is now a bright, confident restoration with a high blue ceiling and plenty of light and gold paint. I came to hear Guildhall student singers in The Jane Manning Birthday Project, a programme which could also be described as a ‘bright confident restoration’ of music and composers she has regularly performed in her long career – the birthday in question is her 75th.
John McCabe’s Requiem Sequence is a wonderfully fluent and floating meditation on the Requiem text, well suited to this spaciously echoing acoustic; and I particularly loved the piano part of Brian Elias’s Once did I breathe another’s breath – like perfectly planned free jazz. Lorena Paz (soprano) and Kaoru Wada (piano) performed my Spanish song Romance de Fonte-Frida – seemingly effortlessly, given that in early days performers used to complain to me quite a bit about its high tessitura (they may have been right, but now everyone just seems more confident.)
A church-full of people seemed absorbed by this quite complex programme, thanks to impeccable performances by a businesslike relay of recitalists. A lunchtime concert slot like this one (in the City of London Festival) often provokes compact programming and energetic listening.