The Covid gods did not smile upon Harry Bradford’s Cadogan Hall debut. 25 members of the Choir were unable to sing as a result of contracting the illness. This did not, however, stop the evening from being a triumph. Bradford, the Choir’s relatively new Music Director, had been eagerly anticipating this moment ever since he took over the reins from the Choir’s founder, John Bate, in 2019. In that relatively short period, Bradford has, despite Covid, cemented an enviable international reputation in the world of choral music. Amongst other distinctions, he was one of the three finalists in the prestigious Eric Ericson Award for choral conductors held in Stockholm last November, which attracted 93 highly talented entrants from many countries. He has also become a Course Director for the phenomenal Choir of the Earth, set up in 2020 as the Self-Isolation Choir.
He brought all of his youthful talent and experience to bear to lead, in turns, a dramatic and deeply poignant performance. The Choir’s reduction in numbers did not translate into a reduction in the quality of the music. On the contrary, it rose to the challenge of this demanding work with power and passion, tempered by sensitivity where required. The Choir’s rich pool of talent was enhanced by the presence of its four choral scholars. They represent a significant commitment to the development of gifted, aspiring young professionals. At different points, they stepped forward to accompany the main soloists at the front of the concert platform, demonstrating confidence and remarkable promise.
The five soloists were outstanding, performing either in a solo capacity or alongside one or more of the other soloists. The singing was frequently exquisite, wonderfully expressive and deeply moving. Amongst the numerous highlights was tenor Mark Dobell’s heavenly rendition of Nigra Sum.
The instrumental forces of His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornets were a treat. It was pure joy to listen to the variety of sounds produced by the range of period instruments, from the thrilling fanfare of the brass at the opening of the second half through to the distinctive sound of the old recorders and the delicate passages of string playing. Throughout, the small concert organ provided sensitive accompaniment for the Vespers’ quieter moments – musical strength through understatement.
Monteverdi’s Vespers concludes with a Magnificat. The Choir pulled out all the stops for the unforgettable finale, ensuring that this was truly a magnificent and memorable occasion for all who were privileged to be present in the glorious Cadogan Hall on 26th March.
4th April 2022