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Rare yet magnificent production.

Byline: By Thomas J Hall

The Choir Of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle.

For a group devoted to the music of Newcastle's leading 18th century composer, Charles Avison, the Avison Ensemble certainly has an impressive network of contacts.

Musicians from as far afield as The People's Republic of China and the New York Met have all been introduced to the region but tempting the Choir of the Chapel royal away from its base in St James's Palace, London, might well top the list.

Founded some time before the Norman Conquest, the choir has served the monarchy ever since. In a programme entitled Music For The Stuart's the choir's present incarnation looked back to the 17th century, when its predecessors included the flower of English musicship. Thus we heard Edmond Hopper's rousing commemoration of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot Harken, ye Nations, alongside William Childs's melancholy lament on the abolition of the book of common prayer and the execution Charles I in 1649.

Pieces by John Blow, Pelham Humphrey, Jeremiah Clarke and Henry Purcell's sumptuous My Beloved Spake competed a fascinating snapshot of stylistic development.

But for all the beautiful intricacies, much of this music was meant to enhance a sense of occasion rather than command attention in its own right. And, accordingly, the 17-strong choir is more about tightness of ensemble than individual brilliance.

The men's and boys voices along with the quartet of strings and organist of the Avison Ensemble sounded magnificent.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 3, 2004
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