REVIEW: CROUCH END FESTIVAL CHORUS, Barbican

PUBLISHED: 12:24 18 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:14 07 September 2010

OK. So it was the men s singles final (which was rain affected and spilled over well into the evening) and it was a classic. But so was the Crouch End Festival Chorus s concert at the Barbican. And it was ju

REVIEW: CROUCH END FESTIVAL CHORUS, Barbican

OK. So it was the men's singles final (which was rain affected and spilled over well into the evening) and it was a classic.

But so was the Crouch End Festival Chorus's concert at the Barbican.

And it was just as full of tension and drama and had a fantastic climax. Sadly it wasn't as full of people as Wimbledon - just enough to half fill the hall.

This ambitious programme opened with Arvo Part's beautiful and powerful Credo, which includes the wonderful babbling part for the chorus followed by the "farting trumpet" passage for the brass. The men of the chorus , in their open neck black shirts looking oddly like Greek restaurant waiters circa 1974, were clearly enjoying this bit. CEFC have performed this short piece before, but never better.

Stravinsky's Symphony Of Psalms is just the sort of piece that CEFC devour - quiet orchestral fiddly bits then full-on brass and strings competing with the singers for supremacy. In the Laudate Dominum of Part III - with its metronomic timpani - the singers were totally immersed, such was their concentration and focus on delivery.

Then on to the main attraction of the evening - and, like Wimbledon, a match made in heaven. CEFC pulled out one of their most stunning, subtle and full-blown performances ever.

Recently they have given several concerts of film music - but nothing like Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. It was commissioned by Eisenstein for his 1938 film - a propaganda piece warning of German aggression. As politics changed, it was first confiscated then rehabilitated.

Following the stirring Introduction, the chorus were let loose on the Song About Alexander Nevsky with each of the bass singers probably trying to imagine themselves as Paul Robeson performing in the People's Palace in Stalin's CCCP - all chins pressed onto chests and eyes bulging.

But there were real fears of a heart attack elsewhere. The tuba player of the fantastic Forest Orchestra was plumbing notes so deep - usually associated with Blue Whales searching for a mate - that he gradually went puce, resembling the Gerard Hoffnung cartoon.

Onto Arise, Ye Russian People and a cacophony of sleigh bells, tubular bells, snare drums and more tuba - monumental, militaristic, nationalist and romantic all at the same time. And the CEFC sounded great.

But more was to come with the incredible train journey over the steppes of Battle On The Ice then mezzo Jean Rigby's tender and emotional the Field Of The Dead.

This was an incredible concert. Perhaps conductor David Temple - by the last note as exhausted and as triumphant as Nadal - should call Wimbledon to ensure no clash with next summer's concert. Game, set and match to CEFC.

Dave Winskill

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