New Wine, Old Bottles - Divertimento

June 27, 2024

What a pleasure it was to see so many members and guests of the Shipston Music Society at the last concert of 2023/2024 season. This was held at St. Edmund’s Church in Shipston and was a concert by Divertimento, a choir of 30 singers based in Leamington who are “passionate about all things vocal from the Renaissance to the present day”.

The programme for our concert was entitled “New Wine, Old Bottles” and was celebrating some of this year’s many anniversaries. The first was Anton Bruckner (b. 1824); “Locus Iste” is one of his famous motets. Composed in the classic-romantic style for four part choir with a relatively simple chord structure, it is one of his most popular sacred works. We then heard a version of the same text being used by a living composer Will Todd (1970). The dissonant chords sustained by the choir with a delicate piano accompaniment created an ethereal effect.

This interesting format of an original composition followed by a present-day version of the same text, was used on three more occasions during the evening. “Beati quorum via” by Charles Villiers Stanford (d. 1924) uses text from Psalm 119 and is for six-part choir. Janet Wheeler (1957) set the tone of her version of the same text with angelic writing of the upper voices supported by a lullaby type accompaniment from the tenors and basses.

After the interval our third comparison was “Bogoroditse Devo” (“Ave Maria”) by Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and is taken from his “All-Night Vigil“(or “Vespers”). With rich harmony and distinctive dynamic markings it is an overwhelming outpouring of praise for the virgin mother Mary. “Bogoroditse Devo” by Cheryl Frances-Hoad (1980) is in eight parts with rich vocal passages and a rolling quaver ostinato creating a peaceful, calm atmosphere.

“Jubilate Deo” by Gabrieli (published in 1613) is another eight part work composed in the style of a Renaissance madrigal and “Jubilate Deo” by Peter Anglea (1988), a powerful jazz piece for mixed chorus and piano. With additional percussive elements from the choir this was a true outpouring of praise!

Also included were “Summertime”, “The Girl from Ipanema”, “I love my love” and others, which created an exciting and varied programme. To finish “The Pink Panther” by Mancini (with ad lib percussion!) and “Quick! We have but a second” by Stanford – bringing the audience to their feet!

This was an excellent evening’s entertainment by a choir whose members all love to sing! Their enthusiasm was evident in every item; they all responded well to their conductor, they produced a confident, powerful sound but were able to balance that with some gentle, softer singing when required. We do hope they will come again in the future

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