Chamber Choir Ireland at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on 21 June 2017
Chamber Choir Ireland brings its Spring/Summer season to a close with a touring programme, performing music from (or influenced by) the Orthodox Church, from the seventeenth century up to the present day. This combination of old and new is clear from the very opening of the concert, with the Irish premiere of Arvo Pärt’s Kleine Litanei (2015), followed by 17th century Kiev chant Blazhen muzh, before returning to the present day with Galina Grigorjeva’s Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos.
Stravinsky’s ‘Three Sacred Pieces’ provides one of the concert’s highlights. For a composer not always regarded for his choral compositions, this set of three sacred texts sees a balancing of themes, from the stillness of the opening Pater Noster to a denser texture in the Ave Maria, with the concluding Russian Credo particularly memorable with its dance-like rhythms.
Works by Vasily Titov, Giuseppe Sarti and Alfred Schnittke also showcase a wide range of vocal colours and compositional evolution within the Orthodox tradition. Notable also is Glasom moim by Dmitry Bortniansky, a composer described by the ensemble’s conductor Paul Hillier as “Russia’s alternative to Mozart and Haydn”, with outstanding vocal soloists providing real sensitivity and poise to the music.
The ensemble themselves are in great voice, the basses and altos especially, and the choir performs with a fullness of tone not always heard in vocal ensembles. The concert concludes with an assortment of pieces from Rachmaninov’s ‘All-Night Vigil’, a work which for many encapsulates the essence of Russian Orthodox music. The choir perform these pieces with colour and understanding, a fitting end to an insightful and transcendent evening of music.