News FromThe Choir

Masses for our time: RLSBC wows its audience

Masses for our time: RLSBC wows its audience

Monday 14th November 2022

On Saturday November 12th, the RLSBC presented a ground-breaking programme of works by 20th century and contemporary North American composers, in the modern surroundings of the new hall at King’s High School, Warwick.

As our Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy, wrote in the programme note: “Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a conductor when selecting music for a choir to perform? … more and more the question which comes to the top of my thinking is – what are we wanting to say to the world in which we live? Are we telling a story which has something to say to you, our audience?”

He went on to explain: “Over the course of our 2022/3 season we explore and reflect on the familiar words of the Mass across time and circumstance… but in tonight’s programme they form the sculptural armature around which concerns of our time are built.” The opening work, the Missa Gaia by Libby Larsen, which uses words from a wide variety of sources, reminded us that it is not that we have dominion of nature, but rather that the Earth let us live with it. This was followed by an impassioned Credo by Margaret Bonds, who as a black woman working in a world dominated by white male composers faced racism and prejudice throughout her life. The second half saw a performance of the concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which pleads for the world to return to a ‘simple song’, a profound message of peace and hope and faith and reconciliation.

No wonder members of our audience found the concert ‘compelling’ and ‘thought-provoking’. But it was also an utterly joyous celebration of the power of music to uplift the soul, and the choir gave of their very best, with commitment and enthusiasm, despite having had only eight weeks of rehearsals in which to learn some really very tricky music. We had two wonderful soloists, Lynda Nwabudike (soprano) and Jack Dolan (tenor), and were ably supported by an excellent group of instrumentalists - strings, woodwind, electric guitars, keyboard/piano and an absolute army of percussion. Audience members commented on ‘the fabulous sound produced by all the performers’.

It is beyond doubt that Saturday’s concert succeeded brilliantly in communicating an important message to our audience, as well as providing them with a great evening’s entertainment. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lee Dunleavy for his vision in proposing such a programme, and for the huge amount of work he put in at rehearsals and during the run-up to the concert, as well as his energy and enthusiasm on the night.

Courier Review 18 November (2.66Mb)

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