Posts Tagged ‘The Gentlemen of St Johns’

Review of ‘The Gentlemen of St John’s College, Cambridge: From Byrd to the Beatles’ on 23rd June 2012 in the Hayward Theatre, The King’s School Ely as part of King’s Ely Nineteenth Concert Society Season.

July 7, 2012

‘The Gentlemen of St John’s College, Cambridge’ drew a large enthusiastic audience to their concert, ‘From Byrd to the Beatles’,  on 23rd June 2012 in the Hayward Theatre Ely. It was part of The King’s School Ely Concert Society Series which always promises talented performers and, as expected, these ten gentlemen gave one of the best concerts we have heard.

The singers featured were Ollie Hunt, Guy James, James Imam, Huw Leslie, Joseph Ataman, Gus Perkins-Ray, Geoff Clapham, Kieran Brunt, Guy Edward-Jones and Director Peter Morton.

Pure, exquisite tones, choral balance and rhythmic ingenuity were the order of the evening. These singers were undoubtedly highly talented experts in the field of unaccompanied ensemble singing.

The programme was well designed and the opening pieces exemplified the sustained beauty of early vocal music. ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah, Part 1’ by  the sixteenth century Thomas Tallis opened the concert with a pure blend of voices and interwoven parts enhancing  the refined serenity of his style. ‘Lugebat David Absalom’ by Nicolas Gombert introduced an underlying sense of momentum and corporate tension associated with particularly successful musical ensembles. Willam Byrd’s ‘Gloria (from Mass for 3 Voices) followed and in this the expressiveness of the varied sections was particularly well delivered by these sensitive performers, matching the words particularly well. ‘Crux Fidelis’ by King John 1V of Portugal contrasted the Byrd with its measured, slow and reverend sound. The more modern sounds of ‘Holy is the True Light’ by the twentieth century William H. Harris were supported with amazing breath control and technique and  ‘Look Down O Lord’ by Jonathan Seers brought forth moments of excitement with delicious use of discord and expressive variety.

Then some of the ensemble walked off the stage to form and ‘antiphonal’ group for ‘Ave Maria’ by Franz Biebl.  It was surprising how this twentieth century composer with all his use of modern techniques created the same reverence and beauty as the familiar Ave Marias from previous centuries. This time the antiphonal answers were not mere copies of the opening phrases, but were integrated meaningfully so that the combined effect was one of warmth, beauty and affection. This was a most impressive and fitting piece to end the first half of the concert.

When the Gentlemen resumed their place on the stage for the second half of the programme, it was clear that they were now going to relax and enjoy more modern music of the people ranging from folk song to teenage ‘Dirtbag’. The charming arrangement of ‘Bushes and Briars’ by Vaughan William flowed magnificently in his inimitable folk-like style. ‘She’s like the Swallow’ arranged by Chilcott followed with its delightful solos and attractive style of arrangement so typical of Chilcott. ‘The Oak and the Ash’ arranged by Gordon Langford and its traditional chordal form contrasted delightfully with the following ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ by Cole Porter. In this song, the humour of the ensemble began to blossom, and the intuitive rhythmical genius of these performers came to the fore in the songs that followed:  ‘With a little help from my friends’, ‘Moon Dance, ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ (with a gorgeous solo), ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, ‘Tears in Heaven’ and ‘I wan’na be like you’. With amazing vocal accompaniments arranged by these talented musicians they showed a strong sense of characterization and musical know-how that made these songs come alive. The encore was justly deserved and sent the audience home with the mesmerizing rhythmic joy of Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t’ (My Baby) recurring in their thoughts.

This was indeed a wonderful evening. The next concert presented by the King’s School Ely Concert Series will be on the 21st of September. For further information contact Lisa Bushell (01353) 653931 email: