In 1989, soprano, Janet Coxwell, conducted a performance of the Mozart Requiem during the Newbury & District Arts Festival. She also sang the solo part, assuming the evening was to be a ‘one-off’ event but thankfully, several of the choristers from the ad-hoc choir begged her to consider making the group a permanent ensemble and so was born The Cecilia Consort. Some of those singers have been with the choir since its inception and many others have clocked up over ten years’ membership so the choir really does feel like an extended family, enjoying social occasions and extra special events such as carol singing in Newbury town centre.
On Saturday 3 November 2018 at 7:30pm, Janet will conduct a programme inspired by the theme ‘O Nata Lux’ (O Light born of light) at Douai Abbey and she is delighted to announce the inclusion of three different pieces by living composers. The lush O Nata Lux by American composer, Guy Forbes will stand alongside a piece of the same title written by British composer, Gabriel Jackson. As ever, the final a cappella offering will see the Abbey returned to its natural state of prayer and meditation and for this purpose, the choir has chosen Illumina by Patrick Hawes.
The titular piece, In The Beginning by Aaron Copland, will feature Janet as its soloist and the Douai audience is also to be treated to a performance of Handel’s breathtaking Eternal Source of Light Divine. The piece was one of the musical highlights at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Patrick Craig’s unique voice will be complemented by Andrew Smets’s solo trumpet.
If you are a fan of Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, you’ll love his Lux Aeterna which features in the second half of the concert. He quotes from the former in this deliciously atmospheric piece and his unmistakable use of tightly knit harmonies and intervals is a fitting grand finale to this special programme.
The Cecilia Consort is a 40-strong, mixed voice choir, directed by Janet Coxwell, which performs two or three concerts a year in and around the Newbury area. Tickets cost £15 (£5 for under 18s) and are available online from www.ceciliaconsort.org.uk, or by calling 07775 743445.
Review by Fiona Bennett
15th November 2018 Newbury Weekly News
Saturday saw the welcome return of The Cecilia Consort to Douai Abbey. Their musical director Janet Coxwell challenged both her choristers and their audience with a programme made up of music and text celebrating the theme of light.
The evening began with a performance of the 16th-century composer Thomas Tallis’ O Nata Lux, performed by Janet, special guest Patrick Craig (alto) and three of the chorus, Lucy Makin, Greg Choules and Anne Ware. The captivating sound of the five voices bewitched the audience and set the scene for an evening of diverse works on the same theme.
The titular work, Copland’s In The Beginning, is not without its pitfalls, but the mesmeric narrative style and journey to the fortissimo phrase ‘…and man became a living soul’ ran the whole gamut of emotions, with Janet’s powerful voice floating above the choir. Melodically, it is not an easy first listen, but there is no doubt it is an absolute masterpiece and the audience loved it.
A powerful (in every sense) performance of Copland’s Quiet Day by Andrew Smets (trumpet) and Steve Bowey (organ) brought us to the final piece before the interval, Gabriel Jackson’s O Nata Lux. Sung by the gentlemen of the choir, with Patrick’s lush alto tones hovering over the bass and tenor lines, the simple setting of the text was hauntingly serene and unmistakably Jackson’s work.
The choir relished the luscious harmonies in Guy Forbes’ setting of O Nata Lux and it was clear, this was one of their favourites of the evening. Andrew and Steve were joined by Patrick for a performance of Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine (recently played at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) and you would have heard a pin drop during this magical performance by organ, trumpet, and voice.
Morten Lauridsen has been described by The Times as ‘a classic of the new American choral writing’ and the gentle dissonance of his Lux Aeterna borrows several distinctive hallmarks from his hugely popular work, O Magnum Mysterium. The ever-reliable (and incredibly musical) Steve accompanied this piece on the organ and once again, I reflected on how lucky the choir is to have such a tenanted accompanist.
The abbey was returned to a place of prayer and meditation with the final piece by Patrick Hawes, Illumina. One of the UK’s most popular composers, he captures the theme of light beautifully in this short, simple, and yet, wonderfully melodic piece.
The night was cold, the fireworks relentless, but we left Douai feeling uplifted, calm, and inspired.