11th November means so much to so many and choosing appropriate music for a concert on that night is always a sensitive challenge, so the contrasting approaches of ‘Requiem’ by Maurice Durufle and ‘The Armed Man’ by Sir Karl Jenkins was the perfect choice.
The YPC, under the superb artistic direction of Andrew Padmore, were not only able to present these works with their usual musical excellence, but to ensure that the capacity audience in Wakefield Cathedral, were drawn into the storytelling and deep emotions expressed in both works.
The YPC were supported by soloists Miles Taylor ( Baritone) and Christina Jones ( Soprano), both of whom interpreted their respective contributions in both works with assurance and great sensitivity.
Durufle’s craftsmanship and intimate flowing style shone through in all its elegance and grace. The work has reflections of earlier musical styles yet is very much a 20th century work, evidence by the complexity of its harmonies and rhythms, all of which were exemplarily dealt with by the choir. Andrew Padmore’s control of tempi and his understanding of the required style meant that the audience were given a deeply emotional experience. Proof of this was the conclusion being met with a lengthy and dignified silence, before the audience broke into rapturous appreciation of the performance.
Mention must be made of the understated virtuosity of Thomas Moore at the Cathedral Organ throughout the work. His dexterity in some of the movements was just breathtaking, yet never over dominant of the choir. A richly deserved and sustained ovation was also reserved for him at the end of the first half of the Programme.
All was anticipation as the audience took their seats for the second half. The choir, under subdued lighting, (and now joined by selected instrumentalists on Cello, Flute & Piccolo, Trumpets (3). piano, organ and of course a massive array of percussion, played by the Mixed Metals Ensemble), marched on the spot as the militaristic opening of Sir Karl’s most popular work began.
The Armed Man assails the senses and we are never allowed to forget the horrors and consequences of war. The Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble relished their part in this as did the trumpet section, including the famous ‘last post’ section, the trumpet here being exchanged for the unique sound of a military bugle.
Poignancy abounds throughout this work and perhaps reaches its zenith with the Soprano solo ‘Now the guns have stopped’ the rendition of which, my Christina Jones, brought lumps to throats and a tears to eyes, as it is intended to.
This work also draws out the deep longing for lasting peace. This begins through the inclusion of the Islamic ‘Call to Prayer’ (performed from the back of the Cathedral by Imam, Ustadh M. Adam Aslam) contrasted against the Christian ‘Kyrie Eleison’ and continues throughout, with other texts, sacred and otherwise. This culminates with the beautiful acapella setting of ‘God shall wipe away all tears’. This latter piece is a musical and intonational test for any choral group, especially at the end of a long concert, yet the YPC were absolutely on the mark, again leading into sustained silence before the final standing sustained and ovation.
Finally, mention must be made of the virtuoso playing in The Armed Man of Cellist Dave Wesling who handled the notoriously difficult and extended solo in ‘Benedictus’ with assurance and wonderful tone giving it the desired beauty and depth of pathos intended by the composer and that of Julia Brakespear whose swift yet completely accurate piccolo playing in ‘Better is Peace’ was simply marvellous.
This was an evening of excellent music making which unashamedly allowed everyone’s emotions to be stirred and to leave the concert feeling moved yet exhilarated. Well done to all involved!