ESTABLISHED in 2006, the Wincanton-based chamber choir Spectra Musica has given many concerts throughout the region, with imaginative programmes ranging from Palestrina to Porter and Bach to Bernstein.
The Spring concert, under the masterly control of Musical Director Peter Leech, took place in the glorious surroundings of St. Michael’s Church, North Cadbury, with its brilliantly colourful chancel and, as I was advised to look out for, its intriguing bench-ends!
Under the title All in the April Evening, the large and appreciative audience enjoyed what was to be the perfect ending to what had been a perfect English spring day. The programme was an eclectic mix of songs, some familiar and some new to me at least. Largely secular in nature, and definitely including something for everybody, pieces ranged from jazz musician George Shearing’s sparkling Songs and Sonnets (words by Shakespeare), probably the most recent work we heard, to Passereau’s Il est bel et bon, written in the first half of the 16th century and always a particular favourite of mine.
What Peter Leech has created with his choir is an impressive body of voices in which no individual stands out and which genuinely sings as one. Here is an ensemble that has been exceptionally well rehearsed with close attention paid to phrasing, breathing, diction and, perhaps above all, dynamics. I am thinking here of the long, beautifully shaped phrases in Who is Sylvia? for example, the clarity of the words in Live With Me And Be My Love, the full bodied sound in the Brahms Opus 92 Quartets, and the overall clarity and precision of Holst’s I Love My Love.
The Holst is a piece I thought I knew well, yet in Spectra Musica’s performance there were moments of delight that, quite honestly, I had never noticed before. Throughout, the singing was well balanced, rich and almost without exception beautifully controlled. If there were a few shrieky notes at the start of Part Two and if, in my opinion at least, the tempo and overall feel of Campion’s Never Weather-beaten Sail was somewhat at odds with what I have always taken to be the meaning of the words, these are probably pretty minor quibbles; by way of contrast it is difficult to imagine a song such as the lovely arrangement of The Girl From Ipanema being better sung – it was quite faultless.
One of the great joys of going to a Spectra Musica concert is to hear their accompanist Anita d’Attellis. Always supportive and never overpowering, her accompaniments were, as ever, a joy to listen to and, as a frequent accompanist myself, must have been really fun to play. We were also treated to four exquisite solo pieces that had us hanging onto her every single note. The long bel canto lines and overall sense of stillness in the Grieg Nocturne (Op. 54, No. 4) for example was simply beautiful, while the eerie, melancholy sounds of Janacek’s The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away were spell-binding and will, no doubt, linger long in the memory.
It was good to see members of other choirs in the audience and, during the interval, when, incidentally, we were treated to some exceptional refreshments, to hear them passing such favourable comments. Spectra Musica produces an overall sound that other choirs might well aspire to.
Spectra Musica’s tenth anniversary concert will be on Saturday 2nd July at St Luke and St Teresa’s Church, Wincanton. For this and for details of future events, visit www.spectramusica.co.uk