Somerset Chamber Choir







The Choir

Next concert

Join the choir


Site map


All future and past concerts

Support the choir


Subscribe or
unsubscribe to mailing lists


Friends Scheme




Members  © 2011 Somerset Chamber Choir  Registered Charity No.1003687  

Patrons: Dame Emma Kirkby and Sir David Willcocks

Somerset Chamber Choir logo - silhouette of Glastonbury Tor and Somerset map outline

Sign up for concert updates
Enter your email address here to receive concert details by email


















Kiev Chant






Arvo Pärt





Piano solos:







Blazheni Yazhe Izbral (How blessed are they)

Khvalitye Gospoda s Nyebes (O Praise Him)

Byl U Khrista Mladyentsa Sad

  (Legend - When Jesus Christ was yet a child)

Izhe Kheruvimy (The Cherubic Hymn)

Izhe Kheruvimy (The Cherubic Hymn)

Otche nash (The Lord’s Prayer)

Ave Maria

Kontakion of the departed


Izhe Kheruvimy (The Cherubic Hymn)

Blazhen Muzh (Blessed is the man)

Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Ave Maria)

Concerto for mixed chorus – 4th movement

Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Ave Maria)

Ehtoohymni (Evening Hymn from All-Night Vigil)

O Oriens (from O Antiphons)

Angelis suis Deus



Waltz in C sharp minor, op 64 no. 2

Polonaise in Ab, op. 53 ‘Heroic’

Nocturne in C sharp minor (Posth.)


Prelude in G sharp minor, op 32 no. 12

Sonata No. 2 (‘The Fire Sermon’) 1st movement


Anita D’Attellis

Graham Caldbeck





Click here to view the concert programme


‘Concert of exotic and unfamiliar music, sung gloriously.’


Russian music is always popular with British audiences. The intense passion and emotion of Russian composers excites the ear unmistakably.

This Sunday afternoon (19th February) a local choir polished up their best Russian (and Finnish and Latin) to sing choral music 'Out of the East'. To add to the Eastern European flavour, pianist Anita D'Attellis played fiery music by Russian, Finnish and Polish composers.

The Choir sang throughout in the original languages. All carefully transliterated by Bass Ian Bromelow, in an extremely accessible and informative programme [notes by Graham Caldbeck], the songs were endlessly fascinating and painted a vivid picture of 'Eastern' culture.

First Tchaikovsky! From his 'Nine Sacred Pieces' (1885) we heard number seven, "Blessed are those whom thou hast chosen" ("Блаженны те, кого Ты избрал"). Immediately the different voices of the Somerset choir stood out distinctly. The final words, "И Память их в род и род" ("Their rememberance is from generation to generation") rang out in the chapel "род и род!" before the final 'Alleluia' pronounced in a very Russian style, with a final drawn out ooh-eeh-aah. A very impressive sound.

Throughout the concert, the quality never faltered. Musical Director, Graham Caldbeck, kept everything very firmly under control, and the singers, in four ranks - sopranos, altos, tenors and basses - gave every song superb energy and precision.

There was more Tchaikovsky ('The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom' and 'Crown of Roses') ending with the 'Cherubic Hymn' from 'Chrysostom' - a low brooding piece with that trademark Russian bass. "житейское отложим попечение" ("Lay aside everyday cares") repeated perfectly time after time before the "аминь" (Amen), which is not the end. After more rejoicing in the prospect of a life to come the song ends with those long deep-felt Alleluias.

Then Graham left the stage, and his rostrum was removed too, to make way for the afternoon's soloist - Anita D'Attellis.

Anita started with a well known Polish composer, who worked in exile in Paris in the nineteenth century, Fredyryc Chopin. Everything Anita did was light, gentle and fluid. In the Waltz in C sharp minor the headlong rushes up the scale were soft as down, ending in the subtlest top note. Every accented note was precise, but gentle.

Rachmaninov's Prelude in G was full of rippling quavers like the story of Undine. There was a lot more power, but still that gentle touch. The forays into the top range of the instrument were magical.

Then to Finland for Einojuhani Rautavaara's Sonata No 2, "The Fire Sermon". From predictable classical progression, Anita switched to crashing chaos. Still that magical precision - now in the bass - interspersed with more watery ripples. Fairy footsteps gave way to the thunderous trampling of great ogres - ending in a mighty crunch as Anita held down all the bass keys with both hands. Somehow, each time Anita raised that silver stiletto and released the sustain pedal, the sound continued to ring out like a cry from another world. Terrifying, mesmerising - and always elegantly controlled. Perfect.

With Graham and his rostrum reinstated, the choir sang the Cherubic Hymn from another 'Liturgy of St John Chrysostom' - this time by another Russian Composer, Alexander Gretchaninov. From a soft bass murmur the music was lovingly built. Cares having been laid aside (again) there was a long relaxed pause before 'Amen', very very low. The benediction was brief before building again to a great controlled "All ee LOOH - EEH - YAH!”

Stravinsky's "Отец наш" (The Lord's Prayer - "Father of us") was familiar in its intonation and rhythm, with the same sincerity, but strangely alien. Surprisingly the last word was missing - no "Amen"! His "Ave Marie" was in Latin, sliding gracefully up and down the scale before ending with an insistent request for Mary to pray for us "in hora mortis nostri" - in the hour of our death. Then after a plaintive pause - "Amen"!

Then, suddenly, we were in the Ukraine. From Kiev we heard the traditional "Kontakion" (and "Ikos") For the Departed. This piece of Orthodox liturgy is familiar to us in Devon - we heard it in all its glory at Buckfast Abbey at the end of last year (15th October). Equally beautiful in the King's College Chapel, the grief and hope of the Kontakion build directly to the Funeral Ikos. Strangely, instead of dust returning to dust we had "деньги" - meaning "money". Intriguing. The graceful lament ended with increasingly firm Alleluias of course!

And to finish the first half, a piece expounding one word - "Amen". The Polish composer, Henryk Górecki, starts the piece with the simple word, short and precise. Then the choir swells the sound to an alien wail, crying in desolation. A word with a wealth of meaning, imploring and demanding . . . commanding . . . angry. Then - silence, broken after an almost unbearable pause by the choir resuming softly and descending to perfect peace, before suddenly swelling to another loud repeat which tails off in a high ethereal note. What an ending!

After the interval, there was more emotive music to come:

For Rachmaninov's version of "Cherubic Hymn" from "St John Chrysostom", a sea of yellow music books appeared. The singers descend stepwise to the exaltation of the "life creating trinity", and then descend further to "Amen". The final Alleluias are soft and light, not drawn out at all. A low bass sustain continues beneath.

"Блажен муж" ("Blessed is the Man") from Rachmaninov's "1915 Vespers". Each line is linked to the next by that haunting "Alliluia", but each time it is different. Sometimes soft, sometimes strident, in a strange repeating pattern. There is one more after the final "Amen", followed by "слава Тебе, Боже!" - "Glory be to Thee, O god!".

Alfred Schnittke's "Concerto for Mixed Chorus" prays that the singing may become healing. Above the words a high soprano voice maintains a single note. There was a soloist listed for this song - Rebecca Elderton - but it was not clear whether this was her [editor’s note - yes it was!]. Each "Amen" at the end split into a deep bass rumble and high soprano, lovely every time.

Paweł Łukaszewski's "Stadium" (for solo piano) was fired at the audience in hectic bursts. The rhythm initially seemed harsh, but became increasingly pleasing. A softer more conventional passage gave way to wild gambolling around the scale. A bass rumble like Mussorgsky's 'Gnomus' finally gave way to one last triumphant chord.

Anita D'Attellis returned to the Yamaha grand piano for one more Chopin piece, "Polonaise in A flat". This too was a gallop, but in a more classical style. The 'heroic' theme was very familiar. Every phrase was polished, and played as Chopin intended - with fire! The big chords were very definite, like marching soldiers, with a war-like song slowly overlaid. Peace intervenes, but in the end a very Russian career up the keyboard ended in intense descending chords. Perfect again.

Anita agreed to play an encore - a very gentle piece with the softest highest trills yet. Familiar sounding, but not a commonly heard piece, this was Chopin's posthumously published "Nocturne in C sharp minor".

Graham Caldbeck then took us to Estonia and Arvo Pärt's "Ave Maria", now in Russian - "богородице дево, радуйся". High and playful with an insistent rhythm and sudden fanfares of sound, this ended with the increasingly familiar repeated words "Яко Спаса родила еси душ наших", "Thou hast borne the Saviour of our Souls" fading away to the final " - shikh" of "душ наших".

Now we moved to even more unfamiliar territory. Einojuhani Rautavaara's Finnish "Ehtoohymni" ("Evening Hymn". Slightly more understandable to English speakers, this starts with a soprano chorus of "Jeesus Kristus", before the basses take things down step by step in Suomi to the deep, deep "Isää, Poikaa ja Pyhää Henkeä" ("Father, Son and Holy Ghost"). The basses really gave it everything.

Suddenly we were in the slightly more familiar territory of Latin again and the Advent antiphon for 20th December - "O Oriens" [Łukaszewski] addressing Jesus as the morning star ("Out of the East"). (We heard all eight antiphons in Latin at Buckfast Abbey on 3rd December last year.) Each syllable was fragmented and infinitely subdivided into different notes, becoming increasingly serious as it implores the morning star to shine on those "in umbra mortis" ("in the shadow of death"). Each repeat was more complex, concluding with the opening words "O Oriens".

Finally the most obscure piece of the concert - and the most restful. "Angelis suis Deus mandavit de te" ("God will give his angels charge over you"), by the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis, opens with an impassioned cry which leads into the jazz rhythm of a spiritual. The voices get softer and croon as in a lullaby - Farewell!

After the applause of the audience died down, Graham explained that the last was not so obscure after all. On Wednesday 15 February [repeated on Sunday, while this concert was happening] the BBC's 'Choral Evensong', at St Alban's Church in Holborn, had included Miškinis' 'Time is Endless'. Fired by the challenge Graham and the Somerset Chamber Choir had to try his music too - to wonderful effect!

As an encore we had a now familiar theme one more time, "Богородице Дево, радуйся" ("Ave Maria"). This time it was taken from Rachmaninov's "1915 Vespers". In Graham's own words "It's the same [text as the Pärt], but it takes longer." This version was certainly slower, whispered and leisurely. The basses and sopranos have a chance to weave in and out of each other's sound before the last searing cry of "Яко Спаса родила еси душ наших" ("Thou hast borne the Saviour of our Souls").

Many thanks to all involved. A glorious concert of exotic and unfamiliar music, sung gloriously. Well done to Musical Director Graham Caldbeck, and to all the singers. Special thanks to Anita D'Attellis for coming from Henley on Thames to play the piano so beautifully. With a little persuasion, she might come to Devon some day . . .

Luch Càise-Dearg

Luch presents the ‘Classical Journey’ radio show on Exeter’s Phonic FM.
This review, with pictures, can be found on the Classical Journey blog

Sunday 19 February 2012

King’s College Chapel, Taunton

‘Out of the East’

Click to download concert poster


Anita D’Attellis performing Rautavaara’s Piano Sonata No.2 “The Fire Sermon” (1st mvt) live at this concert