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Patrons: Dame Emma Kirkby and Sir David Willcocks

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John Tavener

G Gabrieli

Morten Lauridsen






Jonathan Dove

Vaughan Williams



In illo tempore à 6

O do not move

O magnum mysterium

O magnum mysterium

Laudi alla Vergine Maria

I sing of a maiden

Pater noster

Pater noster

Lute-book lullaby

The three kings

Wassail song

A New Year carol

Twelfth Night


Somerset Chamber Choir

David Miller

Graham Caldbeck


Theorbo & Guitar


Click here to view the concert programme


It may have been a cold, raw January afternoon last Sunday (8th January) in Taunton but the prospect of a concert by the Somerset Chamber Choir in King’s College Chapel was enough to warm the determination of a near-capacity audience to hear an imaginative and rich programme of choral music. The magical simplicity of John Tavener’s ‘O, do not move’ that opened the concert and later Benjamin Britten’s ‘A New Year’s Carol’ were set alongside the complex polyphony of Monteverdi’s six-part Mass ‘In illo tempore’ (1610), the challenging chromatic harmonies of Verdi’s ‘Pater noster’ and ‘Lauda alla vergine’ and the ebullient ‘Wassail song’ arrangement by Vaughan Williams. These, with brilliant word settings by Samuel Barber and Jonathan Dove, together with music by Bax, Gabrieli and Handl gave us a rich post-Sunday lunch diet of choral fayre.


I suspect that the audience would gorge on the singing of this choir and the musical direction of Graham Caldbeck, its conductor, all day, but this extended appetite led to certain pieces having a distinct feeling of being under-rehearsed with parts of the Mass and the Verdi items being the most pronounced. It was here that the sopranos found themselves continuously singing divisi , resulting in diminished confidence, moments of poor tuning and a lack of projection. Perhaps some of the strong alto line could have been recruited to the second soprano ranks? Nevertheless this is a choir with great heart and deep respect for its conductor and where a firmer confidence with the music existed then the audience was given ample compensation. Among the more memorable moments were, surprisingly, given its difficulty, Barber’s ‘Twelfth Night’, Jonathan Dove’s ‘The Three Kings’ and Handl’s ‘Pater noster’. Here the choir was in better control of the music with the gentlemen providing very valuable weight and drive.


The afternoon’s pleasure was much enhanced by David Miller giving a clear and helpful introduction to his solo playing of theorbo, lute and a 19th century guitar. His choice of pieces by Kapsberger, Visée and Mertz was a lesson in good programming. Miller is an eclectic musician, soloist and accompanist, often working and performing with other musicians and a professor at the Guildhall School and Trinity College of Music in London. He was joined by Bethia Hourigan for Ballet’s ‘Lute Book Lullaby’. Bethia, a member of the choir, charmed the audience with her fine soprano voice and most thoughtful musicianship. This was a successful partnership of ‘thinking-musicians’.


The Somerset Chamber Choir is a very impressive organisation and this is evident in the careful detail with which these concerts are organised and presented. The choir’s popularity stems from the hard work of everyone involved and finds its rightful manifestation in the music it performs and the satisfaction the audience feels afterwards.


Andrew Maddocks


Sunday 8 January 2006

King’s College Chapel, Taunton

‘Something old, something new’