Crouch End Festival Chorus: Alexandra Palace Theatre
- Credit: David Winskill
Thanks to some of the friendliest stewarding in London, queuing, checking-in and settling-down in Ally Pally's Victorian Theatre was stress-free for this rousing comeback concert.
With an inspired opening selection we were suddenly listening to with Eric Whitacre’s poem i [sic] thank you God for this most amazing day. Looking around the socially distanced auditorium, it reminded me of black and white wartime movies which used classical concerts as shorthand for the civilisation we were all fighting for.
After Lauridsen’s transcendentally lovely O magnum mysterium, conductor David Temple took to the mic: “Welcome back!” yelled a member of the audience: “Thank you!” echoed a beaming Temple: after 532 difficult days it was great to have CEFC back.
Lillie Harris was in the audience to hear her fabulous work, Margaret, a tribute to a 17th century female health professional “Nurse, midwife, surgeon, physician.” One of the solo leads was sung with heart by Crouch End GP and choir member Dr Margaret Ellerby – it was simply perfect.
After Philip Glass’s spellbinding Three Songs, Temple excitedly told us that dancing in the aisles was acceptable for the evening’s centrepiece. Quite a rarity, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert was composed for the 1965 opening of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Ronald Perrin has edited the piece for his Blue Planet Orchestra and, in Jazz News I read that Ellington's motive for writing the work “… was an opportunity to square his accounts with the deity. “
I think the deity would be pretty pleased with what he heard. Soprano Zoe Brookshaw has a massive, brilliantly jazzy and occasionally sultry voice, perfectly suited to this amalgam of big band, be-bop, syncopation, gospel and spiritual "a potpourri of faith-based entertainments."
The choir adored it and started random swaying and hip-wiggling. Temple threw himself into it and, with the occasional nod, worked seamlessly with Perrin. The dozen or so members of the Blue Planet Orchestra were amazing; the percussion and bass section tight but sensitive; the brass and wood-wind, each given their moments to shine, were outstanding. The audience’s extended standing ovation screamed: “Welcome Back!” 4/5 stars.