I WENT to this concert expecting, as the title Spiritual Spaces suggested, some calming, serene singing. But I was wrong.
There was certainly some very calming serene singing — but there was also the sound of a very good choir, under the direction of Matthew Hamilton, pushing the boundaries and giving the audience some modern choral music. If live music is to survive, performers need to experiment and change otherwise it all becomes stale.
The selection had been carefully thought out and there were also organ solos performed by Nicholas Shaw to complement the singing and that was also a contrast.Perhaps the best example of this was Immortal Bach by Knut Nystedt, based on a Bach chorale but spread out into five concurrent choruses sung independently of each other.
Sounds a recipe for possible disaster and certainly discords, but the beauty of this piece was the resolution in the final chords and back into the original Bach chorale. The choristers moved around the body of the abbey and thus provided the audience with an original “surroundsound”. They also performed Friede auf Erden by Arnold Schönberg, an interesting choice as it was one of the last pieces he composed before moving away from the classical European style.
Listening to modern music can be more difficult than traditional European music and requires concentration but is ultimately rewarding. The clever choice on Saturday allowed the audience to relate to the changes that had been made in composition and start to appreciate newer elements of this music.