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It's a piece that combines, seemingly effortlessly, folk song, the blues, jazz and Gregorian Chant as filtered through composers such as Maurice Duruflé. All the words of the Mass Proper are here, in Latin: every section, from the Introitus et Kyrie to the final Lux Aeterna. But there are also the lovely folk songs Black is the Colour and She Moves Through the Fair, and the searing blues of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, incorporated so effectively that you wonder why no-one had thought to do it before. There is also one extended piece of spoken material, at the very end, which, in conjunction with the music, is almost unbearably moving.

Harvey Brough at Union Chapel. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas
Harvey Brough at Union Chapel. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas

The Union Chapel, Islington is one of those quirky venues that seems to work in spite of its shortcomings. In order to accommodate the forces involved, the three children's choirs were situated directly in front of the stage, at floor level, each with its own separate director requiring Harvey, as conductor, to indulge in some imaginative semaphore! And meanwhile the stage was almost spilling over with the other musicians: rhythm section; soloists; chamber choir; string quartet. Yet all this seemed only to add to the collective energy of the performance. One of the great joys of the evening was seeing all those performers one had already met in the first half pouring themselves and their talents into each section of the Requiem. And it was joyous. How many requiems have you heard where an audience breaks into spontaneous and prolonged applause at the end of each section?

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Copyright © 13 November 2007 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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