What a fantastic tour of Europe we enjoyed last night – just a brilliant, brilliant night of music-making.
I have to admit that it was a bit of challenge to come up with a setlist that represented 13 different European nations but it really paid off as your response to the music was fantastic.
Here’s how I thought it went (though feel free to disagree with me in the comments below):
Gallus: O salutaris hostia (representing Slovenia)
A beautiful motet from PDtP favourite Gallus opened the evening. I probably took it a bit too slowly but then again it was an immense pleasure to luxuriate in the glorious harmonies for as long as possible. As is my habit, though, I clearly hadn’t looked at the tenor part when placing it first in the line-up…
Hassler: Gratias agimus tibi (representing Germany)
Next up was Hassler, giving us the opportunity to use everyone’s favourite Twitter hashtag. A short but mighty work, lustily delivered by you all; the final Amen was roof-raising!
Morago: De profundis (representing Portugal)
Thanks to advice from early music scholar/performer and PDtP supporter Luis Henriques, we were able to deliver an accurate account of Morago’s fine motet, where the tortured harmonies we produced were actually intentional for a change. (Totally kidding.)
Pedersøn – Kyrie from Missa quinque vocum (representing Denmark)
We visited Denmark next, with Pedersøn’s fine Kyrie from his 5 voice mass. This took us on some interesting harmonic journeys in each section, plus some proto-Baroque rhythmic phrasing towards the end, all of it very capably handled by the ensemble.
Byrd: Justorum animae (representing the UK)
We closed the first part of the evening with one of Byrd’s most sublime motets. The cascading, overlapping ‘in pace’ passages are utterly beautiful and you guys fully did them justice. Once again, the heroic tenors gave their all.
La Rue: Incessament mon povre cueur lamente (representing Belgium)
The rich output of the Franco-Flemish composers gave us many Belgian options but I’m very glad that we went with La Rue’s ravishing chanson mélancolique . The dense textures of the lower voices were beautifully spotlit by the shimmering tone and lovely blend from the sopranos. One of my favourite numbers of the night.
Sweelinck: Viri Galillaei (representing The Netherlands)
A quick hop over the border to Holland, where we experienced one of the night’s less successful attempts. However, it’s a great work and I am sure we will revisit it at a future session.
Johnson: Dum transisset (representing Scotland)
Included to showcase what may prove to be the EU’s next new member state, Johnson’s ambulatory motet was another low scorer on the hitometer, but again, programming it for a second attempt at a future session may move it up in the popularity stakes.
Victoria: Salve Regina a 5 (representing Spain)
Thank goodness for good old Victoria, getting us back on track and closing Part 2 with another of his miniature masterpieces, less showy than his more celebrated 8 voice version but still extremely singable.
Zielinksi: Vox in Rama (representing Poland)
I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t holding out much hope for this lesser known work. However, it proved to be an immense hit with you all, at least once the tenors figured out what a C flat is. (Sorry, tenors – it’s meant with affection.) Full of expressive, chromatic harmonies and a stunning final phrase in the soprano and alto parts, it will definitely be back at a future session.
Mouton: Salva nos Domine (representing France)
The hits just kept coming with Mouton’s ingenious 6 voice marvel, incorporating a canon and some unexpected harmonic movement, yet an utter pleasure to sing.
Harant: Sanctus from Missa quinis vocibus (representing the Czech Republic)
A short but sweet mass movement, acting as a rather pleasing palette-cleaner before our grand finale:
Palestrina: Surge propera a 5 (representing Italy)
We’d previously performed Palestrina’s darker, more austere 4 voice setting of this Song of Songs text, but his 5 voice version couldn’t be more different: soaring, canonic scales and an irresistible forward momentum (though to be fair, some of you did your best to resist it!), it was a thrilling way to finish off the main part of the evening.
As is the custom for PDtP, a few people stayed back for our post-10pm session and those that did performed stunning revisits of the Gallus, Hassler, Zielinski and the La Rue (I’m still buzzing from that last one) so thanks to all who risked missing last trains to do so.
That’s it for now – we take a break for the summer and will be back in September, date TBC.
However, if you’re desperate for one last bit of singing & boozing, we’ve just released more spaces at tomorrow night’s Counterpint at the Canbury Arms; if you come along you’ll get to sing some of the winners from previous PDtP sessions, including double-choir motets and other multi-voice wonders.
I’ll still be annoying you with the odd update in the intervening weeks, including a heads-up on any more potential PDtP UK tour dates, so I hope you’ll be able to recommend them to your friends if they go ahead.
In the meantime, thanks for your continuing support and if I don’t see you tomorrow, have a great summer!