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Zoe Ward
Upper Sixth
Worcester House

Choral Evensong

Choral Evensong

If you were in the Clifton College Chapel on the afternoon of Friday 14th October, then you were lucky enough to have enjoyed some of the finest choral compositions that the Clifton Chapel Choir has performed in recent years. To celebrate the Chapel Organ Centenary and the Dr Douglas Fox Festival Evening, the Chapel Choir put on a concert which showcased hard work and beautiful music by some of the school’s singers.

After a brief introduction, the Chapel came alive with the sounds of the Old Cliftonian’s returning to their roots as a well known hymn was sung to get everyone in the mood. The Choir then took to the spotlight, as it were, and delicately and accurately chanted responses composed by Malcolm Archer — who used to be a teacher at Clifton, now Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College. Mr Daniel Robson was the cantor and chanted clearly yet beautifully, and his rich tones resonated through the chapel. The Choir were undertaking a fairly skilful task by singing these responses, as it was accapella; the Choir were not to be beaten however and managed this with ease.

With no rest for the wicked, the Choir performed Psalm 33 vv1-12 (A.H. Peppin) without delay. For those that could not see a score of the music, these psalms had no defined rhythm, simply notes on which words were to be sung. This therefore meant eye contact and connection with Mr Hills and the rest of the Choir was vitally important, something the Clifton College Chapel Choir have mastered expertly over the years.

To give the voices a “bit of a breather”, the Headmaster took to the Eagle to read the first lesson from 1 Kings 18 vv36-39 before the Choir displayed the piece de resistance; The Magnificat. The Magnificat was composed by English composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, who was Professor at the Royal College of Music and University of Cambridge. Kosi Carter, of Hallward’s Fifth Form, sang the soprano solo strikingly, reaching a very high register very proficiently. She was not deterred by the contrasting bass, tenor and alto sections and held her own in a Chapel full of those much older than herself; a beautiful performance. This was followed by the second and final lesson of the evening, read eloquently by Christopher Pidgeon of Watson’s Lower Sixth, from Acts 21 vv8-14. Moving at some pace, as soon Christopher had completed his lesson and was back in the choir stalls, there was the second half of Stanford’s works; Nunc Dimittis. Mr Daniel Robson took to the floor once again to sing the bass solo; a much more poignant and moving piece demanded precise timing and perfect breath control, of which even the youngest members of the Choir were able to control.

Further responses followed, this time with harder to reach key changes and complex rhythms — Archer’s compositions were attention-grabbing and stimulating; not just your average call and response! Lightening the atmosphere slightly the Choir offered O Thou the Central Orb, written by Charles Wood, an up tempo anthem with a vast range and beautiful sections that involve harmonic sequencing. It was notable to hear the Choir as a whole, singing often in six-part harmony. A significant way to end an evensong filled with glorious sounds from the Clifton College Chapel Choir.

The only thing left to do was to sing a final hymn to close the evensong appropriately, but with a rather new twist. Texts written by Sir Henry Newbolt about Clifton College had been left, and Mr Hills cleverly set the text of Clifton Chapel to music, turning it into a hymn. Phrases that include ‘Henceforth the School and you are one’ and ‘this is the Chapel here my son’ are now beautifully accompanied with an E-flat major scale, and it sounded enchanting. Let’s hope more of Newbolt’s texts can be set to music and we can enjoy some more of Mr Hill’s hymns!

20 October 2011

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