Church of St Alphege
15 October 2016
This will be Keith Bennett’s final concert in St Alphege’s as director of Paragon Singers, and the programme is unashamedly a collection of some of his and the choir’s favourite works. Typically, it ranges from medieval to contemporary; not surprisingly, also, it has a strong Marian flavour, devotion to the Blessed Virgin having inspired some of the finest sacred music.
The concert starts with the ecstatically soaring melody of Columba aspexit, by the 12th-century visionary Hildegard of Bingen. Next chronologically come two contrasting works from the early 16th-century: Inviolata, integra et casta es by Josquin des Prez, a wonderful example of flowing High Renaissance counterpoint; and the Magnificat ‘O bone Jesu’ by Robert Fayrfax, sturdy and sonorous music typical of an English idiom only gradually coming to grips with musical developments on the continent.
Throughout Keith’s 33-year tenure, he and the choir have constantly returned to the music of Victoria, the greatest of all Renaissance composers. This programme includes three of his finest motets: Ave regina coelorum and Salve regina, both in eight parts, and the exquisite six-part Vidi speciosam.
Another feature of Keith’s time with Paragon Singers has been a commitment to the discovery and performance of contemporary choral repertoire, and especially the support of living British composers. This programme includes two such pieces, a wonderfully atmospheric setting of Alma redemptoris mater by the young British/Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova (b.1980), and an extensive, dramatic setting of the 5th-century Ambrosian hymn Aeternae caeli gloria by Gabriel Jackson (b.1962). The third, relatively modern, work in the programme is Poulenc’s joyful motet Exultant Deo.
Providing an exhilarating finale will be Bach’s glorious motet Singet dem Herrn.