#PDtPBirthday: A celebration of polyphony, beer and the sublime results when you combine the two

Monday’s 2nd birthday party was just too good for words but I’m going to give it a go! (As usual I’ll be getting a little help from our resident tweeters.)

Having enjoyed some uncustomarily subtle singing of the warm-up Bach chorales (BWV 245.11 was given a particularly sensitive reading), it was down to business with the truly old stuff, starting with the Morales Regina caeli a 4 and a chromatically crunchy Vox in Rama by Zielenski.

During the break, I was presented with a marvellous birthday surprise – cupcakes baked by PDtP stalwart Dot Fraser! (By the way, if you are not going to Dot’s for all your music needs then you need to correct this. And Dot, you need to start a sideline in baked goods.)

Part 2 of the evening gave us Guerrero‘s Alma redemptoris mater and Gesulado‘s Sancti spiritus, Domine (yikes) before we started larging it with Clemens non Papa‘s 7 part bubble bath of a motet Ego flos campi.

We finished up the section with a bona fide double-choir stunner, Palestrina‘s Laudate Dominum. (Apologies to Choir II for the stern words re: tempo but you know I only ever have your best interests at heart.)

Happily, the relatively simple harmonic structure meant that even after 3 or 4 glasses of wine you couldn’t really go wrong.

The final section of the evening started with perhaps the only duff number of the night, Byrd‘s O sacrum convivium.

While it’s fair to say that many of you voted for it simply because you wanted to see Byrd on the setlist, nonetheless the episode is currently tied with Donald Trump’s selection as Republican presidential candidate for 1st place in the List of Reasons Why Democracy Doesn’t Always Work.

The mood lifted with the glorious tweefest that is Morley‘s I love, alas, I love thee, one of the works that recently convinced me that some madrigals can indeed have a place in a civilised society.

And finally, in terms of real music we finished off with an incredible Victoria O magnum mysterium (I am very glad you voted for that!) and another fine bit of Palestrina, namely his Pueri Hebraeorum.

Once the proper stuff was done and dusted, there was one final piece of singing to round off the main event; the collective look of pain on all your faces really says it all:

(If you’re really lucky, you might get Bach’s recently rediscovered setting of Frosty the Snowman at our Christmas session…)

After the delicious cakes were distributed, we enjoyed a brief ‘after hours’ session in which we revisited some of the evening’s hits.

Even with reduced numbers, we still somehow managed to do full justice to the multi-voice Ego flos campi and Laudate Dominum, and topped it all off with one last O magnum mysterium which ended up being one of the finest pieces of singing I think we’ve ever enjoyed.

My thanks to all 68 of you who came, whether old-timers or newbies, as you made it such a great celebration.

One last thought. 2 years ago, I tweeted this in jest after our very first session:

And yet, look where we are today: PDtP and Counterpint are going stronger than ever, not just in London but in other parts of the UK, and there are other groups of singers in pubs popping up all over the place!

I’m very glad that it is an idea that has taken off and I hope that we’ll all be singing and boozing and laughing for a long time to come yet!*



*As long as it doesn’t involve that Byrd.


Published by

K O'Neill

I am a classical music enthusiast and a lover of choral music in particular. I run the Polyphony Down the Pub social/singing night, probably the most thrilling singing-Renaissance-motets-in-the-backroom-of-a-pub experience you could ever hope to have.

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