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The Phoenix flies again!

5 March, 2014

Kate shares some thoughts on the programme we’ll be performing.

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“On this tour, for the first time ever on a States trip, we will be taking just one programme – The Phoenix Rising. It is always a real pleasure to repeat the same programme in different venues, especially when it is packed full of some of our favourite music.

“Andrew gave you a far more erudite introduction than I could to this programme in a previous post, so I won’t attempt to better him here! Since the last US tour we have performed the programme in a variety of venues ranging from an acoustically dry concert hall in Cardiff to a large cathedral in Northern Ireland with a gloriously reverberant echo. It is really interesting to see how the music responds to these different venues, particularly as the music in this programme was written for a similarly wide variety of spaces.

“Taverner’s epic votive antiphon O Splendor Gloriae, which closes the programme, was intended to be performed during the reign of Henry VIII in large Gothic cathedrals, and performing the piece in such spaces can be thrilling for us and – we hope! – the audience. But gearing up to perform it at the end of a concert in a dry concert hall can be much more of a challenge, particularly in the solo ‘verse’ sections, where the scoring of very few voices, and often widely spaced, can leave the singer feeling very exposed. By contrast, the Byrd mass was written for the services of the Tudor recusant Catholic community, usually held in a converted room of a nobleman’s house. Like the best chamber music, the mass has an intimacy and interplay between the voices which shines through in the clarity of a concert hall, but which can often be lost in large acoustics.

“Much of the rehearsal time on a concert day is spent working out how to adapt the way we perform certain pieces in a new acoustic, and it’ll be interesting taking the music to some new and exciting places.  Branching out to pastures new is also entirely in the spirit of the Carnegie project which inspired the Phoenix programme – the Carnegie editors were full of missionary zeal for the early music celebrated here. Their performing editions were distributed around churches in the UK with the aim of establishing an early music revival, and whilst they may not have made it to the USA immediately, I’m sure they would approve of our efforts to ‘spread the word’!”

(Interesting to wonder what the Roaring Twenties would have made of Byrd…)