Entitled ‘A Whole New World’, this was a joyous occasion complementing the Olympic spirit with music from 14 countries, sung in ten languages and including seven living composers, plus young voices from the Academy of Vocal Music taking part for the first time.
St Paul’s classic simplicity was perfect for the candle-lit choir entry, welcoming everyone with traditional Aboriginal style: rhythm sticks and child-like soprano voices in ‘Abayo’. Inca rain effects followed with conductor Jeffrey Skidmore’s insistent ritual beat on the deep marching drum. Altogether very atmospheric.
Jonathan Harvey created all - round sound with a plain-song effect over mysterious wordless ‘blurry’ accompaniments in ‘Come Holy Ghost’; perfect for the church acoustic. Nonsense words in Escalada’s ‘Milonguero’ lightened the mood, accompanied by an endurance test of continuous Latin American cabasa rhythms, played with panache by solo percussionist Simone Rebello.
17th-century Charpentier soothed with Psalm 111. Here were singers for clean entries, satisfying phrases and wonderful soloists drawn from the choir, discreetly and sensitively accompanied by organist Alexander Mason.
Mind-teasing mixtures of Javanese gamelan traditions featured the children who led the main choir in a simultaneous English translation with adults’ Ancient Greek in Alec Roth’s ‘Gaia Hymns’. Stylish improvised African drumming from Rebello in Fanshawe’s ‘Lord’s Prayer’ from his ‘African Sanctus,’ was followed by her spectacular performance of ‘Speaking in Tongues’, vocalised Indian dance patterns (originally tabla); music with spirited prestissimo articulation any singer would envy.
A cornucopia of wonderful choral sounds, sophisticated children, sensitive blending, listening and balancing throughout.