Stabat Mater, by Karl Jenkins
Civic Choir in consummate performance
The Nelson Civic Choir and Orchestra shone in their latest performance.
Stabat Mater, by Karl Jenkins, Nelson Civic Choir and Orchestra, with Greenhill Orchestra, Old St John's, Nelson, August 7.
Reviewed by Judith Paviell.
I never got to Nelson Civic Choir's acclaimed performance of Jenkins' The Armed Man earlier this year, so was determined not to miss this concert, my first experience of the world's most-performed living composer.
And what an experience it was: the chill outside forgotten as the warmth of a glorious, rich musical immersion flooded the full house.
Greenhill Orchestra, conducted by Joel Bolton, began proceedings. These musicians, who ranged from young children to senior citizens, settled in to present a heart-rendingly beautiful version of Beethoven's sweeping Symphony No 7: Allegretto, followed by Puccini's iconic Mio Bambino Caro, then ended with an elegant rendition of Elgar's Enigma Variations: Nimrod.
Stabat Mater is based on a 13th century poem that reflects on the suffering of Mary, mother of Jesus, at the time of the Crucifixion. While the theme is sombre, the music and its superb delivery, under the masterful baton of Chris Lukies, were an ultimately exhilarating experience.
At times during the 12-section work, it seemed the sheer energy of pulsating sound was pushing out the wooden seams of the old church, yet was never too loud.
Performed in several different languages the work is an intercultural combination of rhythms and emotions, encompassing musical variations and tonal difference, the old given a modern twist largely by the role of percussion and timpani.
For me this alchemy was best demonstrated in the driving, almost hypnotic beat of Section 5: Sancta Mater, followed by the exquisite poignancy of contralto Erica Sim's solo of Section 6: the Rumi poem, Now my life is only weeping, sung in English and Aramaic.
This consummate performance shows why Nelson Civic Choir has been invited to perform Jenkins' work at Carnegie Hall, New York, next year.
A comment from the audience:
Heartiest congratulations to the conductor, musicians and the choir for such a splendid concert this afternoon. We found it very moving and so beautiful to hear. The Missa Festiva at the end was fabulous - really hairs on the back of the neck material. I loved the Gloria section especially. It rivals Vivaldi's Gloria for emotion and beauty.
You deserve to sing at Carnegie Hall!