Tonight’s two major works at The Three Choirs Festival could not have been paired more perfectly: Jonathan Dove’s There was a child and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. You see, the Dove piece was commissioned by Rosemary Pickering to celebrate the young life of her son, Robert, who drowned at age 19 while snorkeling in Thailand.
“Jonathan has completely captured Robert’s spirit in this modern oratorio which traces a young life, from birth through childhood to young manhood, through a sequence of poems. Robert was a thoughtful, warm, happy, fun-loving, fearless person with great compassion and love of mankind; he grabbed every opportunity that came his way and his adventurous spirit has inspired all of us who knew and loved him —he would have been delighted to have had such a joyous piece of music written to celebrate his life and the lives of all young people taken from us too soon.”
Indeed, and joyous it was, with a freshness of harmony and humor. There is, of course, the moment when death had come, and music was very dark. The chorus sings words from Shakespeare’s King John in two word sobs:
Grief fills / the room / up of / my ab-/ sent child / Lies in / his bed / walks up / and down / with me
But the piece did not end there, and closed with Walt Whitman’s There was a child went forth which radiates joy.
Fauré said his Requiem was called “a lullaby of death”, a welcome deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than a painful experience.
We all know every note of Fauré’s Requiem, but tonight what was so extraordinary for me, was the sensitive string playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra, especially the violins.
The soprano sang the Pie Jesu with great tenderness while the bass was equally outstanding in Libera me. The Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir and the Choristers of the Three Cathedral Choirs were superb, conducted by Adrian Partington.
Talk about perfection—in the afternoon we heard The Cardinall’s Musick, a 10-voice vocal ensemble singing music of Sheppard, Cornysh, Tye, Mundy, Taverner, Byrd and Tallis. The balance, shaping of vocal lines, and intonation were all perfect from this 2-woman, 8-man group conducted by Andrew Carwood.
In the morning I explored parts of Worcester Cathedral outside of my concert seats! King John is buried in the chancel, there is a Handel organ and I ate a big breakfast so that I could climb the 235 steps up to the tower!
On the way down I heard the choir rehearsing the Fauré. How magical!