Winchester-based chamber choir, Southern Voices, drew a large and appreciative audience for its programme in St Paul’s Church with appropriate and well chosen music for Remembrance. 

The entirely 20th century repertoire included Finzi’s Lo, the full, final sacrifice, Arvo Part’s The Beatitudes and Durufle’s 1947 Requiem.

This concert began with John Tavener’s haunting Svyati (O holy one) of 1995. The choir readily embraced the chant-like idiom with accurate entries after each punctuating passage from solo cello. The latter was magnificently played by Nicola Heinrich from the back of the church. It set a suitable mood for the Part which engages through its gradual build-up in pitch and volume. Low pedal notes from the organ create atmosphere though only skeletal harmonic support.

READ MORE: Winchester City Council tenant satisfaction level drops since 2019

The Finzi has a lengthy and complex sacred text which was interpreted and paced well by conductor Jamal Sutton and accompanied by organist Gavin Roberts. He preceded this music with Herbert Howells’s thoughtful solo Master Tallis’s Testament - another piece which builds from a very delicate opening.

The Requiem has a most demanding organ accompaniment, well prepared by Mr Roberts, and Nicola Heinrich was able to provide a beautiful cello counterpoint to Claire Williams’s rich if somewhat operatic Pie Jesu movement. Here the choir demonstrated radiant forte passages and always precise responses to their conductor’s supportive gestures. In quieter passages individual voices can seem exposed and the tone rather thinner but the Lux aeterna section definitely produced a rich and warm pianissimo throughout. 

St Paul’s clean but slightly dry acoustics leave nowhere to hide for voices or instruments. This was all too evident in the use on this occasion of a digital organ sampling a large instrument from northern France. In this smaller English church we lacked some of the blend of its various ranks and the impact of its thrilling tutti effects (as at the end of The Beatitudes). But at least this setting ensured perfect co-ordination between conductor and accompanist. 

Review by Derek Beck