Last Saturday night was, for me, a musical treat. To experience music from multiple European countries performed in an entertaining and friendly atmosphere was such a treat. No I am not talking about Eurovision but the latest concert from Contrapunctum Chamber Choir.
The concert was in the beautiful location of the San Roque Chapel set in the old town of Alicante. The venue may not be the largest but does posses the most fantastic acoustic that could only help augment the beautiful music that was going to be performed.
Not deterred by the hike up the hill (and the lack of oxygen at the top) the audience filled the Chapel leaving standing room only and it was great to see many familiar faces, regular concert supporters as well as a sprinkling of past choir members.
The concert music took a sacred theme, so we were not treated to Contrapunctum's repetoire of secular pieces, no suggestive Madrigals or the tongue twisting "La Bomba" this evening but the serious nature of the music did not in any way make it less enjoyable.
So let’s start our European tour, which admittedly is a little more limited that its modern day counterpart.
The evening started with a Franco-Flamish offering, in the form of two movements from the Mass Pannge Linguna by Josquin Desprez. This beautiful setting of the mass was efficiently performed by the choir. Oscar Marco Munuera fulfilled his usual role of singing the introductions and this time joined by guest tennor Samuel Manzanas Sancho. The Gloria was also enhanced by some lovely intimate moments sung by a quartet.
Moving on in our tour we rather predictably hit Spain for the second part of the first half, with some old favourites of the choir; Ave Maria by Francisco de Guerrero followed by three moments of the Mass O Magnum Mysterium by Victoria. I think it would be fair to say that Victoria must be the favourite composer for this choir and always features in their concerts and rightly so. This mass, as does most of his music, shows what a giant in the Renaissance musical world Victoria was.
After a brief interval the second half started with the English entry (and yes for all of the Scottish readers who will be shouting British at this point, can I remind you that at this time in history you had your own King or Queen). Two pieces formed the English entry If ye love me by Thomas Tallis and Ave Verum Corpus by William Byrd. Here again Contrapunctum showed their versatility dealing with singing in English in If Ye Love Me with great ease. It is so good to hear a Spanish choir singing what are standard repertoire pieces for English choirs but not often performed outside of the UK. It is fitting that these two composers should feature in the same concert. They were both Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and together in1575 they were granted a patent to print and publish music. This was the first time such a patent had been granted.
In between these two pieces we have a little reminder that Spain was hosting last night’s festivities with the performing of O Quan Suavis by Sebastián de Vivanco.
As with all good Eurovision song performances there was a little controversy in the play list for the concert. Ending the second half of the concert, and for me a personal highlight, was the performance of a piece that firstly was not from the Renaissance and secondly not unaccompanied, well if Eurovision can have Australia perform why not a bit of baroque in this ancient version. The Funeral Music, written for the death of Queen Mary by Henry Purcell is a pivotal piece of English Choral writing. It was not only performed for the Queen but also for Purcell himself who died a few months later. The piece explores a wider range of harmonies and dynamic ranges than the choir is used to in it is usual Renaissance faire but they carried it off with confidence. Dare I say I may have even seen a few members of the choir smiling at being allowed to sing loud.
The Purcell was accompanied by a Clarinet Quartet, from Contrapuncum's parent society L'Harmonia, that provided and organ like continuo to the piece, giving the choir the support they needed, and they even imitating traditional tuning.
Well for me if was definitely not "Nil Points" for Contrapunctum last night and from the reaction of the audience I was not alone. I am looking forward to the next concert already.