Review: St Peter's Church, Stockbridge


They’re young, they’re bursting with musical ability and sing like a dream. This is Sansara, the latest fine group of singers schooled in the English choral tradition...

...The concert’s first half consisted of individual pieces dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. It began at the church’s west end with choral responds for the feast day of Pentecost, a series of solo chants followed by seven-part replies from the choir. They were written by Thomas Tallis during the brief reign of Queen Mary. This performance alone left no doubt that we were to be treated to an evening’s singing of the highest quality... by Stanford, John Tavener, Gustav Holst and Vaughan Williams in the remainder of the first half were performed with enviable accuracy, purity of tone and maturity of interpretation.

For choral singers especially, the acoustic in St Peter’s can be unforgiving. The slightest imperfection is discernible. Every musical entry has to be razor sharp, the tuning throughout spot on. Nowhere was this displayed more perfectly than when the choir split and formed up in both side aisles facing each other across the heads of the audience to sing the eight-part Lay A Garland, composed in the early nineteenth century by Robert de Pearsall. The ensemble work here was perfect. This was a performance equal to none and to be treasured for all time.

The concert’s second half was devoted entirely to Songs of Farewell by Charles Hubert Parry, written during the last two years of the First World War and indeed his life. They’re as much his own epitaph as a reflection of his horror by the slaughter. Rarely are the six songs performed as a whole, ‘Never Weather Beaten Sail’ being the best known, but to hear them sung in sequence was a revelation. The final two become more and more musically complex, a challenge the choir rose to with supreme confidence. The prolonged applause spoke for itself.

                                                                                                         - James Montgomery