Without even a moment to change into a new jumper (see previous blog photo) I rushed from Maida Vale Studios to hear the fine Oxford choir Jubilate! conducted by Ben Nicholas. Taking place in the fabulously ornate space of Keble College Chapel, this cultured programme, and the dark, warm sound of the ensemble, was extremely welcome after a long December pilgrimage of carol concerts, quite a few of them rather too full of sweet, sticky musical bonbons.
In this shrine to the Oxford Movement, the music seemed to take on a rich Catholic tinge, even my own Drop Down Ye Heavens, a simple elaboration of a plainsong tune, but on this occasion sounding as if Bruckner had had a hand in it. Jean Mouton’s Nesciens Mater really is a Catholic masterpiece, and sounded great here with a relatively numerous choir and an energetic tempo. A piece I didn’t know, The Beloved, offered brilliant organ solos in a Messiaen direction, alternating with intense choral verses. Peeking at the printed programme in the dark, I saw the composer was Richard Allain – I made an illiterate guess that this was yet another talented member of the Jehan and Marie-Claire Alain family, but in fact this composer (with two ll’s) is British, b.1965. Now I’m up to speed with his name, I hope to hear more of the music.
I came away thinking what a skill programme building is, and what a joy it can be to hear a cogent but novel sequence of music flowing along, without particularly following who wrote what, and whether the music is ‘modern’ or not. Choral music particularly seems to offer this possibility. (Actually orchestral music does too, but so often its concerts are built along the tramlines of opening item, concerto, symphony, all of it at least a hundred years old.)