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Energy and Exuberance

Music by Haydn, Karl Jenkins and Vaughan Williams
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Derby Choral Union is in confident form these days -- witness the choir's bright, engaging account of Haydn's Te Deum of 1800 (Derby Cathedral, Derby UK, 25 November 2006). Conductor Richard Dacey presided over a performance full of energy and exuberance in the outer sections, projecting the more withdrawn central passage with sensitivity.

The singers also responded well to the demands of the evening's main work, Karl Jenkins' Requiem. This intersperses passages from the Latin text with five Japanese haiku, in which the choir was joined by the female vocal trio Juice. This group already has an impressive track-record of contemporary music performances, and it was obvious why. A command of blend, tone and tuning gripped the attention -- the trio's handling of the rather Delius-like harmonies in the third movement was particularly striking.

But even Juice couldn't persuade me of the value of the piece itself: trite, cliché-ridden and absurdly over-long, complete with chocolate-box Pie Jesu and what must be one of the most miserable settings of the Benedictus ever conceived -- has 'he who comes in the name of the Lord' ever had such an unenthusiastic welcome? Maybe I'm missing something and that's actually the point, but I doubt it.

The Orchestra of the Choral Union gave the choir sterling support, starting the evening with Karl Jenkins' Palladio -- the sort of piece that gives minimalism a bad name, where you keep waiting for something interesting to happen, but it never does -- and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves. Slight as this is, it is worth ten of the Jenkins any day.

Copyright © 2 December 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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