Harmonia Sacra

Harmonia Sacra

Expressly divised for the resonant acoustics of cathedrals and churches, this special concert draws on music which spans over six centuries.

The concert features Field of Stars, a new commissioned work from Michael Parkin, inspired by the medieval songs of pilgrims who flocked to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compestella in north-west Spain.

Music by the 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut and be heard alongside Gavin Bryars‘ classic of the 1970s, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, as well as Charlie Barber‘s overture to reconciliation Deus ex machina and Summa by Arvo Pärt, whose reputation has blossomed as a composer of sacred music for a secular age.

The concert also includes music by John Tavener whose music – both in its architecture and its ethos – tends towards the quality of ritual, as well as the celebrated British musician John Dunstable who dominated the European stage in the 15th century.


Music direction: Charlie Barber

Musicians: 1998 performances: Simon Stewart (clarinet, saxophones), Christian Forshaw (clarinet, saxophones), Alan MacDonald (trumpet), Steven Legge (trombone), David Appleton (piano), Tim Wright (percussion), Harry Fowler (percussion), Jeff Moore (violin), Tim Davies (violin), John Rayson (viola), Sharon McKinley (cello), Paula Gardiner (double bass, bass guitar)

1999 performances: Simon Stewart (clarinet, saxophones), Christian Forshaw (clarinet, saxophones), Rob Samuel (trumpet), Steven Legge (trombone), David Appleton (piano), Matt Whittington (percussion), Harry Fowler (percussion), Jeff Moore (violin), Tim Davies (violin), John Rayson (viola), Sharon McKinley (cello), Paula Gardiner (double bass, bass guitar)

Company manager: Alex Lemmon

Technical Manager: Neil Marcus

Calendar

22.07.98NEWPORTSt Woolos Cathedral
23.07.98BRECONCathedral
26.09.98CARDIFFLlandaff Cathedral
30.09.98LONDONSt Giles Church, Cripplegate
02.10.98PRAGUETheatre Archa
03.10.98BRNOThe Red Church
22.10.99HAVERFORDWESTSt Martin’s Church
23.10.99WREXHAMThe Stiwt
24.10.99YORKLate Music Festival, De Gray Rooms

With the financial support of: Arts Council of Wales, British Council, Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust, Performing Rights Society, Britten-Pears Foundation

Reviews

“What linked most of the pieces in this concert, as well as sacred themes, was that they were all elaborations on someone else’s melodies, from mediaeval pilgrim songs, through early Renaissance motet, to the hymning of a 1970s tramp. And in an age when ‘authenticity’ is the musical buzzword. Charlie Barber’s talented group of predominantly young musicians was refreshingly iconoclastic.

Barber’s own interpretations of Machaut and Dunstable were terse and imaginatively orchestrated, though there was at times an over-reliance on percussive forces. More successful in this respect was Michael Parkin’s Field of Stars, a piece as spacious as its title. It kept a fine balance between the dramatic and the contemplative as the focus shifted from one voice to another – tuned bells, swirling saxophone, rasping brass and almost gypsy violin with its strong use of portamento.

Topping up the concert were a couple of Barber originals and an excellent performance of John Tavener’s Threnos for solo cello.” Rex Harley, The Western Mail, 28 September 1998

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