Vic Hoyland

Gay Music for a Golden Age

1966 Review of the premier of Notre Dame de Chartres.

The reign of the first Queen Elizabeth was a golden age for music specially written for small groups of singers, and perhaps it was not surprising that the most gay and pleasing item in a recital by the Juliard Singers at Hull Central Library was Benjamin Britten’s choral dances from his opera “Gloriana”, with their many glances back at that era.

The singers, a group of 11 Hull University music under-graduates, six men and five women, have been working together since last October, and already they have disciplined themselves into a fine musical unit, capable of tackling some extremely difficult unaccompanied modern works

Two Sopranos

The voices, which include two exceptionally clear and pure sopranos, sound well together, and there is exuberance and bite in their singing, which is exhilarating. An hour of modern, unaccompanied British choral music is, perhaps, rather a large and homogeneous mouthful to chew, and it was only to be expected that the audience attracted to this recital, what was part of the Hull Arts Festival, should be small and mostly composed of musical experts and devotees. anniversary of the composer’s friends Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst. Of these, the last “Ballad of Green Broom,” is outstandingly cheerful and charming.

Impressive item

Most impressive item in the programme was Rubbra’s Mass, Opus 66, written a year after the composer’s conversion to Roman Catholicism.
This harmonious blend of classical and contemporary church music styles was interesting, and afforded the group a splendid opportunity to show off its virtues of good attack, full tone and fine shading. Britten took the final palm in the recital, the programme ending with his warm and appealing “Hymn to the Virgin,” which was also given crisp, yet sympathetic treatment.