A musical journey on the grand scale – in time, in complexity, in magnificence, in spectacle, in performance, and even in miles! Hats off to the soloists, the fifty-strong orchestra, the one-hundred strong chorus, and the whirlwind of energy that was Mr Milton. A Child of our Time was with us, holding our hands under the octagon of Ely Cathedral, reaching into our hearts and minds. But I get ahead of myself – for this was a concert that was much more than the eponymous hero of its programme.
Sometimes the journey helps define the event, and Woodbridge School’s physical journey to Ely Cathedral for our grand concert marked a new departure in all sorts of ways. The extraordinary magnificence of the surroundings lent not only an astonishing acoustic to the evening, but also a sense of awe and wonder that music, oh glorious music, could only magnify.
The Chamber Choir has a reputation that has graced the wider reaches of our European continent over the years, but rarely has it sung in such a venue, and under Ms Weston’s sure guidance it opened the concert in the finest of styles, singing six wonderful British works spanning nearly five centuries and ending with Finzi’s extraordinarily triumphant, and triumphal, God is Gone Up. Mr Turner surely had all the stops out for this one as the cathedral filled to the brim with sound. Magnificent!
The Chamber Orchestra calmed the mood: contemplative pastorale to the fore in Vaughan Williams’s hypnotic Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Tallis originally conceived the melody as a psalm tune, and the underlying poetry inherent in the music could not have been more beautifully portrayed. It was as if we all breathed as one: audience, performers and music. The ebb and flow brought calm and peace. Masterful.
And then to A Child of Our Time. Dark. Shadows. So important to know the subtext here, and indeed the text. For this is a story, and a difficult one – as difficult as the music. But with difficulty comes the chance for even more extraordinary achievement and I have to reflect here on my own experience: four weekend days of intense work, a first rehearsal with the orchestra just two days prior and with it a sudden and visceral understanding both of the meaning and the astonishing virtuosity of the piece. And then transposition to the Cathedral to be part of a performance that had me a-tingle from the first bittersweet chord. I’ll not forget. And surely that is what music is at its best – for performers and audience alike: unforgettable and transcendent.
It was worth the journey – whichever one you mean! What a concert. So brave an undertaking, so rich the rewards. Many, many congratulations to Mr Milton, Ms Weston, Mr Turner, and all the performers, and many thanks to the hundreds of you who shared this very special moment in the musical life of our school.