THE 24’s choral concert conducted by Robert Hollingworth included two divergent settings of each of four texts.
The expressive dissonances of Tallis’s O Sacrum Convivium, performed with flowing, naturally paced polyphony, had an unexpected kinship with Messiaen’s setting of the same words, whose warmly colourful harmonies were affectionately done.
Byrd’s familiar Ave Verum was followed by Roderick Williams’s memorable, hot-off-the-press Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined, for which the choir split into three antiphonally placed groups. Striking spatial effects and occasional super-rich harmonies presented Byrd through a contemporary prism, rarely in focus but always discernible.
The plainchant Veni Creator Spiritus’s simplicity was a complete contrast to Penderecki’s complex challenges; the choir remained beautifully in control.
James MacMillan’s 2009 setting of Miserere Mei, Deus is a powerful blend of tradition and novelty. Pregnant pauses were beautifully timed during the chant, while the choir’s virtuosity suited the modern word painting. By comparison, Robert White’s long 16th-century setting of the text felt a little bland, with less variety of sound than hitherto.
Thomas Tomkins’s 17th-century setting of When David Heard, while affecting, was not as grief-stricken as Eric Whitacre’s lament. Although it perhaps overworks its material, Whitacre’s hypnotic and poignant use of disjointed syllables, long silences, and note clusters had some around me in tears.
This student choir’s professionalism inspired confidence, from their appearance in smart black and mauve, to their placement on stage, varied for each piece and unobtrusively adjusted between works. Hollingworth’s fluid yet precise conducting brings out their best.