Sound the Trumpet
The Priory Church, Lanercost
2 May 2009
The ancient walls of Lanercost Priory were again host to a splendid musical event when The Wordsworth Singers, with their Director of Music, Edward Caswell and guest soloist, trumpeter Mark O'Keeffe, presented a remarkable programme of twentieth century music, with a final twist from the 16th century.
By any standards this was an ambitious programme that included works by Vaughan Williams, MacMillan (1959) and Taverner (1490-1545) and which at times provided severe challenges to choir and audience alike. With works which included Vaughan Williams Mass in G and Valiant for Truth, In splendoribus sanctorum by James MacMillan and Taverner's epic antiphonal motet, O splendor gloriae, the singers beautifully, and with sensitivity and power, expressed the threads which bind the music of our own time with that of the past.
In contrast, the solo, unaccompanied trumpet in an ultra modern piece by Peter Maxwell Davies appeared, at first hearing, to be a mere selection of random notes. There was, however, no doubt about the virtuosity of O'Keeffe, whose pure and at times almost ear-splitting tone in the soaring acoustic of the Priory made exciting listening and contrasted well with the simple beauty of the Irish Folk Song, My Lagan Love that he played in the second half.
But this is a choir that has now 'grown up'. Many a professional choir would have balked at tackling Amore langueo by Francis Pott (1957), an extraordinarily difficult piece, which they brought off with at least an outward show of assurance. Quite what the audience thought is impossible to say, although they clapped like heroes at the end of it.
Without doubt though, The Wordsworth Singers has become the premier choir of Cumbria. Their collective ability and the variety of artistic range is impressive, enabling them to delight, educate and move their audience in equal measure.