After a year that saw many tributes to centenary celebrant Benjamin Britten, John Tavener’s music is set to be part of various choral masses and carol services this Christmas after the composer’s passing last month. Indeed, Ireland has heard relatively little of the music of someone who was considered one of the greatest creative talents of his generation. On Thursday night The Mornington Singers led the tribute when they gave their Christmas Concert Noël in St Patrick’s College Chapel, performing a diverse selection of carols spanning the last six hundred years.
The concert begins with Tavener’s God is with us, the Christmas proclamation that is both uplifting and haunting, showcasing not only the choir’s musical ability but also the substantial sound the thirty plus singers could make. They later present his work The Lamb, which stands out as the most poignant piece of the night.
The concert programme consists of a mix of the Wilcox/Rutter carols that have become the mainstay of Christmas carols for choirs, and more intricate pieces by the likes of Herbert Howells, Peter Warlock and of course Benjamin Britten. While the audience are asked to partake in the better known carols, the Mornington Singers prove impressive in the more challenging repertoire, which is sung with precision and accuracy.
Their sound may have been better had it not been for the slightly strange acoustic in the chapel. The oval shaped structure is extremely open, and the high flat ceiling with brick walls and windows meaning there isn’t much reverb. While this works well when the choir are singing at full tilt as there is no boom, for softer moments the acoustic proves slightly ungenerous.
However, this cannot detract from the choir’s quality and much credit must go to their conductor Orla Flanagan, who calmly leads the choir through the varied programme as they follow her every gesture, truly moving as a well rehearsed unit.