March 2018: Rachmaninov Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

Saturday 17 March 2018

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Festival Chorus started the celebrations for their 25th anniversary in style in Exeter Cathedral last night. Every possible detail had gone into producing an evening of outstanding music-making. Even the weather played along, with the ‘mini beast from the East’ producing snow flurries as we exited the incense-filled building, after a night of mighty choral music from the East.

This was an evening where music, religion and theatre all came together in mesmeric fashion. With lights dimmed and candles flickering, and no sign of the choir, their warm sonority appeared in the air. Throughout the evening the choir moved seamlessly around the building (no mean feat in the dark, keeping together and singing in Russian!) and we were enveloped in their sound. Nigel Perrin expertly balanced the choir and drew out the important lines. Dynamics rose and fell beautifully together and the music was performed with real love, devotion and care.

The choir were joined by three excellent soloists, Nina Alupii-Morton (mezzo-soprano), Ralph Penny (tenor) and Jeremy Birchall (bass). All three had the perfect tone quality required with warmth, authority and sensitivity towards the text.

Not only was the choral singing and sense of ensemble of the highest quality but the consideration to lighting, staging and dress all added to the atmosphere of awe and worship. If the choir can produce an evening of such high quality at the start of their season, I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us!


Angela Blackwell