/Irish Treaminer - 06 05 2003/
International Choral Festival continues to astonish. Just when
I think I have heard everything beautiful that can be done
by the human voice, a new group adds yet another dimension.
So it was that I found myself in the Cathedral of St Mary and
St Anne (the North Chapel) at 10.30pm on Friday, listening
in awe to the remarkably lovely music made by two very different
vocal groups - Banchieri Singers from Hungary and White Raven
from Switzerland - wondering whether there is any thing that
singers cannot do.
Banchieri Singers (two sopranos, counter-tenor, tenor, baritone
and bass), all young, sing without a conductor and seem to
me to take up where the King Singers left off.
They do not just sing in tune; their apparent use of what is
known as Just Tuning brings an edge of excitement to all major
chords that has to be heard to be believed. In addition, their
control of balance and dynamic contrast is superb.
The composers whose music they sang ranged from the Elizabethan
Thomas Tallis to the contemporary Hungarian Gyorgy Orban, and
they were equally expert in every style. The simplicity, immaculate
tuning and supported pianissimo on Orlando Gibbons' madrigal,
Drop, Drop Slow Tears, was most moving, the chromaticism in
works by Alonso Lobo and Gesualdo was astonishing and the sprightliness
of the rhythms in Scarlatti's Exultate Deo an enormous joy
In their second group, they somehow managed to subtly alter
their tone quality in keeping with the harmonic and stylistic
changes demanded by music of the 20th century. The performances
were electric. Totus tuus (written for John Paul II's third
visit to his homeland) has a hypnotic quality in the seemingly
endless repetitions of the word Maria on very slowly changing
chords and the quiet reverence of their approach was mesmeric.
By way of contrast, in Orban's humorous Daemon irrepit, we
heard music that was a marvellous progression along the road
mapped out by his Hungarian predecessors, Kodaly and Bardos.
With its exciting inner word rhythms and imaginative harmonies
this was a magnificent ending.
Dineen (Macroom), David Munderloh (Wisconsin) and Raitis Grigalis
(Riga, Latvia), collectively known as White Raven, brought
yet another dimension to part-singing that was as unexpectedly
beautiful as it was delightful. Singing in block harmony, very
sweetly and simply, with impeccable diction, their approach
suits the music remarkably.
Their performance of Sean O'Casey's Down Where the Bees are
Humming and the ballad, The Parting Glass, in particular, were
superb examples of wonderfully restrained showmanship.