St Malachy’s Church in Coleraine was packed to capacity recently when music lovers gathered to hear chamber choir Cantemus perform an Irish premiere.
The appreciative audience heard the first performance of ‘Requiem for the Living’ by the young and upcoming American composer Dan Forrest.
Cantemus Chamber Choir NI (Coleraine) joined with St Anne’s Cathedral Choir and Causeway Chamber Orchestra in one of the highest quality presentations of choral music heard in Coleraine in recent times.
The audience was enthralled by the ‘unprecedented quality of choral singing’ and ‘spine-tingling moments’ as they listened to a modern interpretation of the Requiem inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. It is perhaps rare to hear a previously unheard piece that immediately captures the audience’s attention, however ‘Requiem for the Living’ did exactly that – and how! From the opening Kyrie through to the final ‘Lux Aeterna’ the 50 strong choir clearly enjoyed the challenge of new repertoire, the sopranos rising effortlessly to the high notes, supported at all times by the inner parts.
The second movement ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’, text from Ecclesiastes, was especially dynamic and invigorating as was the fourth movement, ‘Sanctus’. The Requiem finished with ‘Lux Aeterna’, bringing the listener to a place of rest and peace with the tenor soloist singing ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’.
The concert also presented several choral pieces in the first half. Of note was ‘Miserere’ by the 17th century composer Gregorio Allegri. This famous piece was originally reserved for the papal choir’s exclusive use until a young Mozart heard it in 1770 and transcribed it from memory, the first known
unauthorised copy! The piece is known for its top ‘C’ repeated throughout the work.
Requiring a treble or soprano voice this posed no problem for Niamh Cullen whose top C was effortless and quite delightful. Two other pieces of note were ‘The Ground’ by young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (yay-lo) and ‘Even When He is Silent’ also by a young Norwegian, Kim Andre Arnesen.
Altogether this was a triumph of choral singing professionally presented to a very high standard in a beautiful and resonant church setting in the heart of Coleraine. Thanks are due to Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council for its grant to the concert.
Sympathetic lighting and staging added to the overall presentation. The two conductors, Cantemus’s Tony Morrison and St Anne’s David Stevens were in charge throughout, bringing carefully considered musical interpretation to every piece.