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'My, what a performance!'

Saturday 28th November, 2015


Review by Lee Trewhela

IT'S not the text (my Latin master would give me a damn good thrashing for the pitiful amount I remember) and it isn't the meaning as I haven't got a religious bone in my body (my RE teacher would ... etc).

So the power and emotion of Verdi's Requiem must rest squarely on the music and its performance.

And, my, what a performance!

The 100-plus choir, conducted with usual subtle confidence by music director Christopher Gray, were joined by the equally adept 50-strong orchestra.

It's certainly an egalitarian enterprise with the likes of internationally celebrated author Patrick Gale (cello) rubbing shoulders with a soprano like Kath Warren, who happens to be the headteacher at my daughters' primary school.

As regular readers know, I'm more likely to be expounding the virtues of some hairy rock band while my love of classical music tends to err on the side of more modern composers such as Philip Glass and Max Richter. Frankly, I don't know my arias from my elbow so don't expect the usual glossary of highfalutin terms.

What I do know was that this was something special.

The moment the four soloists enter proceedings in the Kyrie Eleison was mindblowing ... quite literally. Sitting just a row back from them, I'm not sure my left eardrum will be quite the same. That the human voice can resound with such volume is astonishing.

They were all superb - mezzo soprano Sarah Pring living every word, the extraordinary ebb and flow of tenor David Butt Philip and the strength of David Stout, who looks like every bass I've ever seen. They're the rock'n'roll ones you know will be straight down the pub while the clapping still reverberates around the auditorium.

Very much holding her own and more alongside these visitors to Cornwall was well-known local soprano Suzanne Manuell; particularly devastating in the final Libera Me. As the choir and orchestra fade away, she rose to a top C ... then silence. Stunning.

For the casual observer, Verdi's Requiem – which is almost operatic unlike many sacred works - is all about the Dies Irae.

It's the greatest hit, if you like. As stirring, majestic and demonic as Mars, The Bringer of War or Ride Of The Valkyries.

Three Spires' rendition pushed me back in my seat and added a couple of inches to my height so mighty was it.

Despite the "hit" there are also moments of great beauty and quietude - the Lux Aeterna taking you somewhere else entirely.

This unforgettable performance was surely the rival of anything you would see at the Royal Albert, Wigmore, Royal Festival or Cadogan Halls?

We should be so proud that Truro has an ensemble which can stand tall against the very best internationally.

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