Cherubim & Seraphim
December 17th 2010
St John's Parish Church, Wellington
From Russia with Beauty - Review by Harold Mead
Glistening snow outside and hundreds of flickering candles inside created a perfect setting in St. John’s Church, Wellington for the Collegium Singers’ Christmas concert of Russian choral music ‘Cherubim & Seraphim’. The opening was sheer magic – despite being spread around the walls behind and beside the audience, the perfect ensemble and beautifully blended sound of the twenty singers in Bortynansky’s ‘Tyebe poyem’ told us we were in for an evening of fine music making.
And so it was – the programme was an adventurous mixture of familiar pieces and others I would say totally unknown to most of us. Director Peter Leech’s concert foretalk was a fascinating insight into the social, religious and political environs of the music and composers, and the music ranged over nearly two centuries. Unaccompanied throughout, the choir’s sound was clear and sonorous despite the small number of singers. The clean ensemble sound only very occasionally slipped in the upper parts, due I am sure to sheer fatigue at times.
In the most familiar pieces, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom’, and the excerpts from Rachmaninov’s ‘Vespers’, I was impressed by the careful attention to dynamics, so important in these works. In all of the music, the vital bass line was particularly fine and all the singers seemed equally at home in traditional folk idiom or severe Orthodox harmonies.
This was a lovely concert, well sung in an appropriate ambience and deserved the long and enthusiastic applause.
Harold W. Mead