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Hampton Court, Coronation Canticles


Not for the first time, my Sunday pilgrimage to Hampton Court's Chapel Royal was a challenge, with no trains running to the local station, and Kingston Bus Station closed for a lengthy rebuild. The town has in effect a motorway system running through its centre; as a pedestrian or cyclist, you have to be dead keen to reach your destination.


Which I was; to attend a special Evensong in chapel at which a new setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Gabriel Jackson would be heard for the first time. The building was filled by an attentive congregation who listened with respect and appreciation of the choir's work.


The chapel's imaginative Choral Foundation commissioned Gabriel to make this setting in commemoration of the Coronation. You could forgive my weary assumption that Coronation "branding" might result in something rather grand and fruity (or is it "cheesy"?) Clearly Gabriel had not been thinking this, and his setting beautifully and almost wistfully evoked the interweaving solo sections of the English verse anthem, a form actually born in this very chapel 400 years ago. Somehow he had also devised some almost Messiaen-like textures for the early 18th century instrument, something I have never heard before in this very historical setup. Praise should also go to Chapel director Carl Jackson for teaching his choir to sing some real 'new music' which must at first have had some tricky vocal corners. Like my challenging journey to Hampton; well worth negotiating.







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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

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