On Saturday Eastbourne Choral Society’s programme at All Saints Church consisted of just two works, one remembering the fallen in the Great War which ran, effectively, from 1914 to 1945, and the other dedicated to the victims of the war in Kosovo.
The cumulative effect of superb choral singing under musical director John Hancorn, fine organ-playing by Nicholas Houghton, mellifluous solo singing by Briony Lambert and polished orchestral work by the few members of the Eastbourne Chamber Ensemble made this an evening to be long remembered.
The Requiem by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), an outstanding French organist, dates from 1947, shortly after France’s liberation. It demands singers who not merely sing in tune but can maintain a long pianissimo, seeming to breathe as one. ECS were spot on, and Nicholas Houghton made All Saints’ superb organ seem to breathe along with them. Mezzo Briony Lambert’s Pie Jesu was even over her entire register; involved and beautiful singing. I have heard this Requiem on several occasions, but have never seen it as a masterpiece until hearing this performance.
Karl Jenkins’ Mass For Peace entitled The Armed Man was first heard at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2000. It is a massive work, scored for a full symphony orchestra. It mixes choral and solo singing, and entwines a Latin mass with poetry of varying quality. I have heard it described as a Dog’s Dinner. Well, maybe...but some dog! Some dinner! Suffice to say that the performance we heard conducted by John Hancorn, with very few orchestral players, brought out the best not only from the performers but from the work itself. Who needs a full orchestra when one has a cellist, a flautist, trumpeters, and timpany this good? I found the experience most moving, and one can’t say that of many very recent compositions. By Robin Gregory.
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