I was lucky enough to take the time out of a stretch of disorientating English essays to catch the Exeter Philharmonic Choir’s Autumn Concert earlier this month. It was a Saturday evening, and tired, I sat on the balcony of The Mint Methodist Church and allowed the polyphony to wash over me. It was a welcome respite from the Lewis Carroll-esque rabbit-hole one finds oneself in if they attempt to write 3000 words on Nietzsche and the Dramatic Monologue.
But I’ve started with a digression. This was a solidly executed performance of a well-selected repertoire, the centrepiece of which was the Tsunami Requiem, a rather recent composition by Chris Williams – inspired by the 2004 Tsunami that devastated South Asia. Whilst it isn’t my job as a reviewer of a choral concert to critique the pieces themselves, instead, I should and will concentrate on the singers; I will say that this mass is incredible, and you should hurry to YouTube or Spotify to listen to it. The predominately acapella final movement, a threnody, Agnus Dei, was extremely poignant, and I wouldn’t be lying if I said I was almost reduced to tears.
The recital opened with Mozart’s Kyrie In D Minor, a lesser-known piece, that I admittedly thought was the double fugue from Mozart’s own requiem. That’s not to say I was disappointed when I found myself to be wrong, as the Philharmonic’s performance was solid. The interpretation of the tempo, Andante Maestoso, was particularly pleasing, as the piece moved with a real stately feel. It’s worth noting however, that this didn’t detract from the drama of Mozart’s composition, as the second set of tutti, Kyries, was extremely striking.
The Philharmonic were joined by the Devon County Junior Choir, who were involved in approximately half the repertoire – as the Children’s part in the Tsunami Requiem and in performance of a selection of songs by themselves, sequences by Benjamin Britten and Andrew Millington respectively. Their recital was rather disarming, in that the songs were invariably light-hearted, jokey numbers, which to some extent disguised just how good the Choir was. It was great, therefore, to listen to their involvement in the far more lachrymose requiem, as I felt the interplay between them and the main choir was excellent.
A rendition of John Rutter’s Gloria served as a rousing and vivacious climax to the concert. Overall, I enjoyed the performance, my highlight being the versatility of both choirs to shift between a variety of moods across the repertoire, meaning each section was effectively juxtaposed with its companions. The Exeter Philharmonic will next perform on the 10th and 11th of December, singing Carols in the Cathedral alongside a brass group and another Junior Choir. On the back of, what was in my opinion, a very successful recital at The Mint Methodist, this stands out as one of the best options in what will be an extremely diverse selection of Carol Services in early December. I highly recommend checking out the Choir in the future, and I look forward to following their progress in the New Year.