SATURDAY 3 JANUARY: ST PAUL'S CHURCH, WINCHESTER
Sansara is a sensational vocal ensemble.
The average age of its members is 20, yet despite its flexible make-up dependent on students’ availability in holiday periods, it consistently sounds like a single instrument.
In addition, it boasts five conductors from its own ranks, splendidly mature and confident soloists, an advanced composer amid its healthy tenor line and programme planners who really know how to engage their listeners.
Nineteen voices presented a cappella repertoire to an appreciative audience in St Paul’s Church, Winchester.
The music ranged from 16th century to James MacMillan in the 21st and included the premiere of choir member Marco Galvani’s setting of Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen.
The latter, scored for double choir, featured challenging close harmonies and vocalisation but, as in the rest of the programme, the choir achieved miracles of dynamic subtlety and confident tuning to produce a moving and beautiful total effect.
For sheer impact, MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn, sung at the back of the church, made a brilliant curtain-raiser and Rutter’s double choir Hymn to the Creator of Light, incorporating a fine Lutheran chorale, provided a serene and imposing conclusion.
Stylistic variety came in the shape of three early Spanish carols presented with breathtaking (and breath defying) diction and crisp syncopations as well as fine solo contributions.
Voice parts were frequently changed around with total security of blend and part one ended with Robert Parson’s five-part Ave Maria sung in a circle with Sansara spread out around the entire audience.
Throughout the evening the choir displayed enviable precision of ensemble and maturity of phrasing – as in the taxing and lengthy six-part Videte Miraculum of Thomas Tallis – with never a hint of routine or lack of momentum.
Above all, here was a youthful but highly professional demonstration of real enthusiasm for choral singing and complete empathy with the chosen music.
- Derek Beck