This afternoon’s concert at the Three Choirs Festival was by the world-famous Kings College Choir conducted by Stephen Cleobury. It was sponsored by the American Friends of the Three Choirs Festival to which I contributed.
For decades my late husband Carl Crosier and I listened to the Kings College recordings and out of their concert today of 14 choral anthems, only three of them were new to me. The rest were all pieces Carl had programmed at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and I had either played or sung them during my years as organist there.
Those included O sing unto the Lord; When David heard (Tompkins); Ave verum corpus; Haec dies (Byrd); Warum ist das Licht gegeben; Schaffe mir, Gott (Brahms); Locus iste (Bruckner); Cantate Domino: Adoramus te Christe (Monteverdi Vespers); Remember not, Lord, our offences (Purcell); and Nunc dimittis (Howells Collegium Regale).
I couldn’t help thinking if Carl had not bought those recordings, and then scheduled our choir to perform them, I would not have known all those works!
Kings College Cambridge set the gold standard not only in terms of choral literature but also in beautiful choral musicianship.
My favorite part of the concert was when the boy sopranos absolutely soared on the high Gs of the Howells Nunc dimittis. I was thinking that during Evensong people don’t applaud the choir, so finally we got our chance to clap for them on a piece that normally would only be heard in the context of Evensong.
The choir also sung an encore which no other group has done during the Festival and again it was a piece that Carl had programmed in our church: Hymn to the virgin by Benjamin Britten.
Of course, the choir sang well, but there was also a bit of nostalgia —director Stephen Cleobury had once been a chorister here at Worcester Cathedral, from 1958-1963 and for him it was a bit of a homecoming. The pieces he chose for this concert were those he remembered as a Worcester chorister.
We were fortunate to hear Kings College Choir twice in 1992 and 1999 at their annual Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve—which meant standing in the queue for 5-1/2 hours beforehand. We also heard them sing Evensong during several summer trips to England. There is something very special about hearing the choir in their own building with its high vaulted ceilings which contribute to the blossoming of their sound.
In the morning I took a tour of Worcester Cathedral which the guide apologized for since a rehearsal of the orchestra and chorus for tonight’s concert was going on simultaneously and it was so loud that he could not be heard over it. Still he pointed out parts of the Cathedral I had not noticed before.