Fauré Requiem, Poulenc Gloria at St John’s

“a great program, with a nice balance, and everyone a winner”

Fauré’s Requiem “Simply gorgeous.  The choir sang the Requiem as if they couldn’t get enough of it, and parts of it brought tears to the eyes.”

Poulenc’s Gloria “It was very atmospheric, with lots of light and shade, a very resounding piece.”  “Wonderful fun, and that’s what comes over from the choir and orchestra.”

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The Hackney Singers and the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Fauré Requiem, Fauré’s Pavane and Poulenc’s Gloria on Saturday 23 April, 7:30 pm, at the impressive St. John at Hackney church, Lower Clapton Road E5. The Poulenc piece is a blend of solemnity and joy, with jazzy chords and serene chant from Catholic church music, while the Fauré Requiem is a popular piece sometimes described as a lullaby of death.

And the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra performed Fauré’s haunting Pavane of 1887, which might be familiar as it was used as the BBC World Cup theme in 1998.

photo: Imogen Radford

Spring Concert
Saturday April 23rd 2005 at 7:30
Fauré: Pavane
Fauré: Requiem
Poulenc: Gloria
Elizabeth Cragg – Soprano Daniel Jordan – Baritone
Mark Shanahan – Musical Director
Forest Philharmonic
St John at Hackney, Lower Clapton Road, E5

According to Fauré, his Requiem, written 1887-1900 “…is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” He went on: “… it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than a painful experience”

Poulenc’s 1959 Gloria is fresh and vivacious, a blend of solemnity and joy, with jazzy chords and serene chant from Catholic church music. Critics at the time suggested that it bordered on the sacrilegious, but Poulenc replied “While writing it I had in mind those Crozzoli frescoes with angels sticking out their tongues, and also some solemn looking Benedictine monks that I saw playing football one day.”

Fauré explained how he wrote the Pavane: “While I was thinking about a thousand different things of no importance whatsoever, a kind of rhythmical theme in the style of a Spanish dance took form in my brain… this theme developed by itself, became harmonised in different ways, changed and modulated; in effect it germinated by itself.”

Kirsty Norman congratulated the choir: “Simply gorgeous. The choir sang the Requiem as if they couldn’t get enough of it, and parts of it brought tears to the eyes. And whatever it was that Mark did to you in rehearsing the Poulenc “Domine fili unigenite” (I heard about him getting everyone to stomp their feet and choreograph a dance of their own to the rhythm), the result was marvellous! Well done.”

Bob Giles, who had never heard choral work sung live before, said: “I was extremely grateful for this opportunity. I had no idea so much work went into something like this – at a couple of points I was moved to tears, especially by the glorious voice of the soprano soloist.”

Jill Eakins said: “The singers, choir and conductor gave us a truly rewarding performance that was marked by its musicality and wide range, meeting the very high standards that have been set by this ensemble. Both soloists had wonderful voices and performed with distinction. It was so nice to hear French music played with such warmth and understanding.”

Alma Gray said: “What started out as a favour to a friend, ended in a great musical experience in a wonderful setting.

Lucy Fincham said of the concert: “I was moved; it was lovely.”

Jenny Douse said after listening to the Poulenc: “It was very atmospheric, with lots of light and shade, a very resounding piece.”

Mike Dempsey, local resident and member of the Bach choir, said: “The Poulenc is such wonderful fun, and that’s what comes over from the choir and orchestra.”

Richard Sykes said of the Requiem: “the Sanctus was a gem of perfection”.

Mark Shanahan, who has been musical director of the choir since 1998, and the Forest Philharmonic orchestra since 1991, said:

“The composers of the two choral pieces were both saying something new, and although they come from different times they go well together. I feel that performing them at this time is appropriate because after the Pope’s death there is fresh hope for the new papacy. And as well as performing beautiful music, we can’t help thinking about the connotations of the music. The Requiem makes me think about people who were close to me that are no longer here, while the Poulenc reminds me of a happy time when I first performed it.”

The soloists both enjoyed performing with the choir:

Elizabeth Cragg, soprano soloist: “It’s the first time I’ve sung with the choir, and they sound really good. The Poulenc is a very exciting piece. I enjoy it every time I do it, but I forget how good it is. And the Pie Jesu in the Fauré Requiem is such lovely ethereal music.”

Daniel Jordan, baritone soloist: “It’s a nice programme. The Poulenc Gloria is fantastic, and the Requiem too. The two mirrored each other nicely, and it’s good to have something a bit more cerebral at the start of the concert. I really enjoyed my part, I was only sorry I didn’t have more to do.”

The leader of the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra, John Crawford, said:

“It’s a great programme, with a nice balance, and every one a winner. The Fauré Requiem is lovely, and it’s an easy play for us in the violins. It’s the first time I’ve done the Poulenc piece, and I’m very glad to do it. It’s good fun, and fairly straightforward. We don’t have the challenge of pitching the right note that the choir faces.”