Epsom Chamber Choir, directed by their new conductor Jack Apperley, provided a feast of contemplative music in their Evening Meditations concert on Saturday night (28th October). The harmonious sounds of the well-blended voices pleased the ear in the excellent acoustics of St. Martin’s Church, Epsom.
In the opening piece, In splendoribus sanctorum by James Macmillan, we were soothed by a velvety start before a heart stopping moment when the saxophone began to interweave its seemingly improvisatory melodies into the texture. The piece ended with echoing instrumental phrases from the back of the church. The scene was set for an evening of saxophone music blending effectively with the human voice.
The soprano and alto saxophones, beautifully played by Naomi Sullivan, featured in many of the works, bringing new and interesting harmonies to some 16th and 17th century pieces by Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis, and adding atmosphere and colour to contemporary works such as O Wisdom by Will Todd. Paul Mealor’s piece for male voices I saw eternity had the saxophone blending in effectively with the voices, while wind chimes added an ethereal sound. Naomi also played arrangements of two flute pieces by J. S. Bach and C. P. E. Bach.
Many of the works with saxophone were arranged by the Yorkshire born saxophonist Christian Forshaw. They brought back memories of the now disbanded Hilliard Ensemble with their recordings of a cappella singing and improvised saxophone accompaniment.
Much of the programme involved quiet tones, but just before the interval we were treated to a sax solo entitled ….so this is what happened by Christoph Enzel – a loud, rousing, multiphonic piece, sounding like a whole band rather than just one instrument.
The concert also included soaring close harmonies in Cecilia McDowall’s The Lord is good and Gail Randall’s simpler setting of George Herbert’s The Call. Herbert Howells Requiem, a relatively short reflective work, was performed with great attention to the speech rhythms and dynamics. The solo lines in this and other pieces in the programme were sung beautifully by different members of the choir and the saxophone blended well with the voices.