Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

The Choir of St Paul's Cathedral under the direction of David Burchell

A superb programme performed by the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral at Friday's Lunchtime Concert highlighted over 3 centuries of Christian a capella music and was warmly applauded by an audience which grows significantly as this series progresses.

Purcell's "Hear My Prayer, O Lord" set an ethereal scene. The soprano line of Allegri's "Miserere mei Deus" rubs shoulders with the heavens and was excellently realized, while the work's discords were suspended for maximum tension. This serenely beautiful work was performed with great richness.

Poulenc's "Timor et Tremor" and "Vinea mea Electa" was equally enjoyable, but on another scale, so to speak. Chromaticism is exploited judiciously, sometimes in seamless opposition to tonality and sometimes as a dramatic affront to more effectively illustrate the text.

Two songs from the New Zealand composer Christopher Marshall's "O Fragile Human" ended the programme. Commissioned by numerous New Zealand choirs some years ago, two songs from the work were premiered on Friday. "And I saw the River" opens with a strong and lyric ostinato in the bass line which successfully conjures a deep rolling river. This theme then rises through the voices, overlapping, gaining layers, speed and intensity until to reaches a climax before perhaps all too rapidly fading to a close. "Reflection on a Palm Sunday" with soloist Amanda Barclay, is also a beautiful piece of drama. The "Hosanna" successfully evokes childish taunts which grow more pointed as the work progresses. Barclay, though giving a flawless performance, seemed to lack sufficient anguish, even when the words allowed, to offer a dramatic counter to the almost jeering choir. Perhaps and given the welcome chance, hearing the whole work might put this dramatic imbalance between the nasty and the naïve into better perspective.

Under the direction of David Burchell, the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral has become an excellent source of civic pride.