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This truly world-class group of sixteen young singers treated the audience to an evening of astounding singing in the beautiful setting of St Bride's.
The first half of the programme included sixteenth century masterpieces by Victoria, Byrd (the appropriately entitled "Laudibus in Sanctis"); a motet by "The Master" JS Bach; and Schütz's "Die mit Tränen" sung with great beauty and feeling by five of the choir selected (astoundingly) from the whole choir only 2 hours before the performance. This half also gave the audience an insight into the Latvian composer Peteris Plakidis, with the final movement of his Choral Symphony with some wonderful lyrical singing by the choir transporting us into an ethereal world of calm and tranquillity - Laudibus will be recording all of this symphony together with other music from the Baltic states, which will be compelling listening when it comes out.
This was the first example of what distinguishes Laudibus from other choirs - their ability to change style and period effortlessly and convincingly. More examples followed in the second half. What better way to re-engage the audience than Michael Finnissey's "O Virga, floriditatem tuam"- spell-binding singing from solo voices spread around the church filling the whole space with sound. Giles Swayne's "Magnificat" powerfully sung and beautifully phrased, followed by Eric Whitacre's magical Lux Aurumque a smooth, rich blend of sounds which showed the incredible balance and ensemble singing of the choir to perfection. The centrepiece of the second half was Bob Chilcott's "Beauty for Ashes" composed for the Service of Rededication for St Bride's and first performed by our own choir in November 2007, and now given its third outing, with the young, agile soprano voices of Laudibus in particular seeming to soar up as if drawing our eyes to the superb interior of the rebuilt church. What a treat for us all!
Laudibus in rehearsalThe lovely Baylero followed, full of gentle harmonies and lullaby-like rhythms, which led into a Zulu tribal song found and arranged by Mike Brewer on his extensive musical travels which enabled the separate voices of the choir to show off their talents in an energetic choral dialogue of sounds and effects, including an astonishingly realistic recreation of jungle sounds - birds, running water and animal sounds all wafting around EC4! More atmospheric sounds followed in John Hearne's "The Seagull" this time taking us to the Western Isles of Scotland in a wonderful piece new to many listening intently.
To end the choir transformed itself into a Gospel choir and "band", the latter going off-stage to come back with their "double-basses" which were then carefully tuned! "Movin'" is a wonderfully innovative piece again devised by Mike Brewer himself, and it gave the choir the opportunity to show-case all its abilities in ensemble and solo singing of great wit and talent. 50 Years On they nearly brought the house down again with the spontaneous applause for an evening of mesmerising charm, musicality and enthusiasm.
Throughout the evening Mike Brewer linked the pieces with informative and amusing introductions and comments , and the evening ended with the NYC signature encore, "Shenandoah".
A wonderful evening of exceptional music sung at the highest level. As our Musical Director, Robert Jones, said in thanking Mike and the Choir, when he is auditioning for our own St Bride's Choir, he looks for the best solo voices with the ability to sing as par of a team - and on a warm night in May he found sixteen of them!
At the end of the celebration of thanksgiving for 50 years since the rededication of St Bride's, we were looking to the future - and at least musically we can be confident that the future of our heritage is in the best of hands and heart: thank you to Mike Brewer and to Laudibus - you have won over many new fans with your marvellous voices, wonderful musicality and boundless enthusiasm.