St Bride's: News

Angelic Arias and Soulful Songs evening at Stationers' Hall

st_brides_choir_stationers.jpgThere could, perhaps, have been few settings as glorious or appropriate to the first rousing anthem: Gloria in Excelcis Deo. The dark panelling of Stationers' Hall gave a warm, rich sound to the voices. The magnificent Caxton window reflected the triumph of the ancient livery company's commitment to the printed word. The intricate carving of the Hall's frontage was a perfect backdrop, as the 12-strong choir of St Bride's church began its concert of sacred and modern songs on the evening of January 21st.

St Bride's is no stranger to the Stationers & Newspaper Makers. The magnificent Wren church has long been the spiritual focus of journalists and journalism, and David Meara, the rector, is also the chaplain to the company. How appropriate, therefore, that some of the money raised by the evening of song - and by the subsequent auction and tombola - should go to the £2.5 million restoration appeal for St Bride's 226-foot wedding cake spire.

The choir's next two anthems recalled the musical glories of the 16th century - the age when London's livery companies were at their height. We had the beautiful Thomas Tallis anthem "If Ye Love Me", followed by "O Lord Arise". Unaccompanied, of course, the choir showed its mastery of harmony, timing and modulation - and already the audience of some 150 liverymen and guests could feel the power of a choir that has won renown for its extraordinary repertoire and crystal clarity.

The high notes soared, tingling the Hall's decorated ceiling and reverberating on the panelling. The four sopranos, two altos, three tenors and three bases who comprise the choir, established in 1957 for the rededication of the church, interplayed with dazzling complexity. Next we had music associated with weddings: Patrick Hadley's much loved "My Beloved Spake" and William Walton's "Set me as a seal upon thine heart". This time the piano accompanied them - but in truth the voices alone were enough to burst beyond the hall. Little wonder that these professional singers are so much in demand. Each of the audience who bought a tombola ticket also received a CD that testifies to their national popularity.

The choir, of course, were much in demand over Christmas, and gave us some of the music of the season. Has Bob Chilcott's arrangement of the carol "Gaudete" ever sounded so joyful or urgent? They also gave us some of the solo favourites: Clare Seaton, who has been with Bride's professional choir since 1987, turned "Ave Maria" - too often, alas, soupy and sentimental - into something magically fresh and powerful. The familiar became new, but the familiar can always draw the emotions. A Verdi piece provoked prolonged applause. And though we have tired of the way British Airways has hijacked Delibes' flower duet from Lakme, St Bride's gave it a clarity and purity far beyond the ads on Classic FM.

stationers_auction.jpgThe evening ended on a lighter note - just to show, perhaps, that even a church choir can also do the popular with zest and brio. "Nobody Does it Better" could have the choir's own summary of their performance, followed by "I'm for ever blowing bubbles". The Master, in offering delighted thanks afterwards, confessed he had been inspired by the choir's rumbustious finale, which he said had almost become the company's unofficial anthem. Perhaps this, and the cajoling of an inspired auctioneer, put us all in the mood to bid large sums prizes and raise a goodly sum not only for St Bride's but also for the Stationers' Foundation. All in all, a very well spent evening.

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