Preview of our “Into the Light” concert – music from Scotland, England and Germany with words from Wales

There’s a new Mount Everest in the field of choral music and The Renaissance Choir has conquered it. The Scottish composer, James MacMillan, has produced a profound and beautiful setting of Miserere Mei which is mesmerising audiences lucky enough to hear the work. MacMillan has based the piece on Allegri’s famous Miserere, using techniques from both the 17th and 21st centuries. Conductor Peter Gambie remarks, “It’s not a difficult work to learn – it’s a fiendishly difficult work to learn, so we’re delighted that our wonderful Petersfield audience will get the chance to relish this glorious music in concert”.

Also in the programme is Beethoven’s Mass in C, which represents another pinnacle. Beethoven himself regarded this as his greatest choral work, so he himself placed it above the Missa Solemnis and the last movement of his 9th Symphony.

Commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II to celebrate his wife’s name-day in 1807, Ludwig van Beethoven’s early Mass in C contains some of the composer’s most sublime music for voices. Although his original treatment of the text distressed the Prince at its premiere, the Mass is now regarded as one of Beethoven’s most moving works. It is also only one of two masses he wrote. Of the work, Michael Moore writes “While [it] is often overshadowed by the immense Missa Solemnis, written some fifteen years later, it has a directness and an emotional content that the latter work sometimes lacks.”

The mass will be accompanied on the piano by Karen Kingsley, rather than its original orchestration. In doing this, Peter Gambie is continuing his campaign to bring large choral works to smaller venues. Two reasons underpin this – firstly, that many of the large-scale choral pieces are rarely heard in churches due to limitations of space and, more pragmatically, orchestras cost a great deal, so ticket prices have to be high! Peter also views Beethoven’s supreme skill at writing for the piano as being perfect justification for this choice.

Karen has remarked of the work that “It’s like Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata with an added choir”. She will also be playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

We will also be singing Philip Moore’s hitherto unpublished I saw him standing, which was dedicated to the Vasari Singers on their 25th anniversary. The words are a translation, by Rowan Williams, of a Welsh hymn by Anne Griffiths. She was a farmer’s wife without formal education, who died in 1805. She wrote a small number of hymns that are remarkable for their bold and extravagant imagery and sustained emotional density. The translation is not literal but is instead an attempt to create something of the energy of the original.