It is Day Three at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester and the music today was so incredibly beautiful and musically so perfect that I felt that I had died and gone to heaven! The first concert we attended was by Stile Antico, a 12-voice a capella vocal ensemble based in London whose voices were perfectly matched in timbre, yet whose singers were each soloists in their own right. Four of them belong to one family, and my traveling companion, Vreni Griffith, has known some of the girls since they were 10 years old, where she met them at Dartington summer choral schools. They presented a program called “Sacred or Profane?” in which sacred texts were used for secular tunes, e.g. L’homme armé for mass settings. We heard music by composers such as Dufay, Monteverdi, Clemens non Papa, Jannequin, Victoria, Taverner, Josquin and Lassus.
This group’s ensemble was impeccable, and although they seemingly sang without a conductor, they all looked at one another constantly, with only very subtle nonverbal cues.
I went to the 5:30 pm Choral Evensong which featured the music of Herbert Howells, whose early education took place here in Gloucester Cathedral. The combined men and boys choirs of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester Cathedrals combined to create the most heavenly renditions of Howells’ St. Paul’s Service, with which I am very familiar and which the LCH choir had performed on several occasions with the St. Andrew’s Cathedral choir. Talk about soaring sopranos! I guess it is may be due to the fan vaulting here.
I was thinking to myself that Carl Crosier would have absolutely loved being here and hearing this ethereal music performed so gloriously. I wonder why we never came to this festival before on one of our many trips across the pond. I do remember Edith Ho’s comment that Carl and John Scott (from St. Thomas New York) are conducting heavenly choirs who never sing flat or sharp! Believe me, these choirs’ intonation was right on the money — heaven on earth! We also sang the hymn, MICHAEL, which was written by Howells.
Even though I queued up a half hour before Evensong, I didn’t get there early enough to sit in the nave, and had to sit in the side chapel to watch the back of people’s heads on a video monitor! I will know better for tomorrow’s evensong. I was a little irritated that people talked during the organist’s prelude. I guess it is a common problem all over the world.
In the evening we sat in the very front row and felt like we were right in the middle of the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Orchestra as they performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Now you may know that I’m not really a Mendelssohn fan, but this performance was so thrilling and so brilliant that at the moment I thought I was hearing the greatest musical work ever written! The chorus, orchestra and soloists were all outstanding, especially world-class bass-baritone Sir Willard White who was not even ten feet away from us. What a voice!
We sat next to a couple from Ann Arbor, MI, Priscilla and Jim Carlson, and look forward to seeing them at tomorrow’s reception for the American Friends of the Three Choirs Festival, to which we were invited.
There was a special guest at tonight’s concert, none other than HRH Prince Charles! We were all asked to stand in silence as he entered and exited the hall. Unfortunately we did not get to see him, and only heard his footsteps. He came by himself, plus some security personnel—no Camilla. When he first entered, everyone sang the British national anthem, God save the Queen (except for those of us who did not know the words!) Even the orchestra played from memory!