Bach & Pärt - the power of the spirit

Sat, 25 Mar 2023

Bach & Pärt concert poster

Levens Choir under their conductor, Gawain Glenton, are to be congratulated on performing an ambitious and exciting programme with such aplomb. They delighted the audience at St George’s Church, Kendal, with their dynamic and musical interpretations of pieces by Bach and Pärt, the former sensitively accompanied by Manchester Cathedral organist Christopher Stokes, on a 2009 Walter Chinaglia baroque organ.

The programme was book ended by two Bach motets. Komm, Jesu, Komm gave us a foretaste of the quality of this choir with its precisely articulated opening contrasted with some fine legato singing. The choir was at its best, though in the final Jesu Meine Freude, a cantata which demands many different styles of singing. All were tackled with conviction and confidence; stately chorales contrasting with the complexities of the fugue.

Christopher Stokes demonstrated the colours of the organ with movements from JS Bach’s Pastorale and a delightfully showy Fugue on B.A.C.H. by J C Bach.

The pieces by Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki pointed us to a very different approach to religious music, reflecting the more contemplative and spiritual style of the Eastern Orthodox Church. These pieces demand a sonorous tone and pitch perfect tuning to allow the harmonics to ring out. This was achieved beautifully in The Deer’s Cry with the lower parts providing a wonderfully rich and mellow base over which the sopranos could soar. The Górecki Totus Tuus was full of drama. The ensemble at full throttle was spine tingling, as was the control in the final repetitions at the end which maintained pitch and tone as they faded away.

We were treated to an encore of the party piece of the evening, Bogoroditse Djevo, by Pärt. This was impressively sung in Church Slavonic. Something of a tongue twister, it was full of character and verve, bringing to an end an excellent concert by this ever improving choir.

Anne Pater