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Get Out More....................Music Review

STANFORD'S REQUIEM/BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE

31-03-2010

Colin Baines

Andy Goff enjoys a long neglected Birmingham masterpiece at Adrian Boult Hall.

There are times when one listens to music and it does something to you. The reaction varies from person to person. With me, the hairs on my arms stand on end. Last Saturday was one of those hairs-on-arms-on-end nights.

The Adrian Boult Hall at Birmingham’s Conservatoire is an outstanding centre of musicality. The acoustics are magical and listening to Stanford’s Requiem performed by the Birmingham Choral Union was magic within magical.

Sir Charles Stanford, who died in 1924, was a composer, organist and conductor. He taught at The Royal College of Music – his pupils included Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bridge, Ireland, Howells and Bliss. In doing so he was at the forefront of the 20th Century revival of British music. Yet, bizarrely and very sadly, his Requiem, written in 1896 at the commission of the Birmingham Triennial Festival, has been largely ignored and gradually forgotten.

The performance on Saturday was a one-off concert of this delightful work by the BCU, conducted by Colin Baines.

Paraphrasing the programme notes, “Stanford’s Requiem is certainly on a grand, choral festival scale requiring a large if not massive orchestra from which some beautiful effects are created. ”

The choristers and orchestra captured the power, wistfulness and passion that Stanford’s little-performed Requiem embodies. Soloists Pamela Davies - Soprano, Claire Bartram - Contralto, Anando Mukerjee – Tenor and Birmingham boy Byron Jackson – Baritone gave terrific performances.

Led by Nigel Stubbs and accompanied by noted organist Darren Hogg, the orchestra comprised musicians who had only practised the piece en masse the afternoon before the concert and were outstanding.

As you would expect from a musical director with Colin Baines’ experience and abilities, he conducts with his whole body and at times it was if he channelled the music into his baton and then waved it back out to the audience after blending.

He told me in the interval that he couldn’t understand why this beautiful music isn’t performed more often. I hope that this means there will be another night of the long hairs.

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