The St Woolos Quarterly published a lovely article by a cathedral visitor who had enjoyed coming to our Autumn concert:
Reflections by a Visitor on a Cathedral Concert
” I was staying a few days with my brother and his family in South Wales. On the Saturday evening they were planning to go to a concert in Newport Cathedral – the programme of orchestral and choral music looked interesting. I had never been to St Woolos, so why not?
” It’s hard to express what a great evening it was. The welcome at the door, the feeling of community, the friendly buzz of anticipation. The cathedral is smaller, more intimate than most, the white walls giving it a lightness, the wooden rafters a warmth. Then, when we had all settled down and the music started, everything seemed to lift.
” The opening piece was Cantique de Jean Racine, by Gabriel Faure. A gentle work, it received delicate handling, its mystery and force both well expressed by the choir and orchestra. The next piece was orchestral – Ravel’s Pavane pour one Infante Defunte, full of melancholy nostalgia. That’s when I noticed how good the acoustics of the cathedral are, allowing individual instruments – the horns, oboe, flute and harp – to hang poignantly in the air.
” It was followed by a short piece for a cappella choir, Quatre Motets sur des Themes Gregoriens by Maurice Durufle. Written in 1960, it made and interesting contrast to the Ravel and Faure, and I imagine was a challenging piece for the choir. I stopped trying to follow the words and just listened to the skilfully interweaving voices.
” The first half of the evening ended with the last movement of Camille Saint-Seans’ Symphony No.3 with Organ, hugely enjoyable – I loved the sheer excitement of hearing it live, the magnificent cathedral organ competing with the timpani and clashing cymbals in the final finale.
” The interval, a quiet moment, emphasised the friendly quality of the evening – members of the choir and orchestra joining the audience, chatting to friends over a soft drink.
” Then the final piece, very moving and a fitting end to the evening: the Requiem by Durufle. The opening sets the tone – the slow depth of the instrumental music matching the bass voices, with the sopranos and altos creating a celestial canopy of over-arching sound. After the fortissimo climax of the Kyrie, the baritone Harvey Evans added a different colour, a rich, solo voice emerging from the sopranos and altos. The Pie Jesu is written for mezzo soprano accompanied by cello and organ, so again the texture of the sound changed, with Susanna Spicer bringing a purity and tenderness.
” By now I was simply letting the music wash over me. Being at a live performance of a complex choral work, you appreciate the force and skill of over 100 singers and musicians creating music together for the sheer pleasure and love of it. There is so much for the eye too, the conductor leading, encouraging, the instrumentalists poised, waiting for their cue, the singers banked up opposite us, and beyond them the beautiful stained glass window and mural by John Piper. It was purely by chance that I went to the concert but I realised afterwards that evenings like this really do enrich our lives.”