St Michael's Church, Dalston
4 December 2004
In the reverential setting of St Michael's Church in Dalston, The Wordsworth Singers proved that the music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier sounds just as fresh and lively today as it did when it was first written almost 350 years ago.
The Singers were under the direction of their new conductor, James Grossmith, also director of choral music at the Royal Scottish Academy, who was handed the baton by Michael Hancock.
The evening began with the glory of the first Christmas Day and the great mystery of Christ's birth as portrayed in the serene music of William Byrd and the exultant glory of Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium.
The centrepiece of the concert was the Messe de Minuit pour Noel.
Charpentier based the mass on folk carols. Jeremy Suter on the organ announced the sprightly rhythms and the choir transformed them into seasonal images of harmonic peace and light.
The choir’s pleasure in the music and the disciplined liveliness of their performance conveyed the natural joy at the heart of the sacred music.
A solo performance of Messiaen's depiction of the shepherds by Jeremy Suter on the organ was followed by two medieval French carols to complete the second half of the concert.
Michael Hancock, the founder of The Wordsworth Singers, has found a worthy successor in James Grossmith. To the very fine voices and ensemble singing and the eagerness to perform challenging programmes, James has added an historical understanding that has given new depth to their performance.