I’ve just attended a concert by the Oxford-based semi-professional chamber choir “Commotio” (http://www.commotio.org/). It was the launch event for the new CD (on Naxos) of works by Francis Pott, entitled "In the Heart of Things".
I can honestly say that, in 40 years of experience as a choral singer and conductor, I have rarely heard such a beautiful sound.
The predominantly young (30s) singers achieve an effect under their director Matthew Berry that is both sensuous and disciplined, luminous but pure. It is singing of great intensity and commitment.
They specialize in music of living composers, several of whom write specially for the choir. This concert included works by four such composers, Peter Klatzov, James Whitbourn, Francis Pott, and Richard Allain. Two of the composers were present (Allain and Pott).
I was particularly entranced by a piece by James Whitbourn – “He carried me away in the spirit”. This was a piece of such radiant sensuousness, sung with such controlled passion that I found tears running down my cheeks, something that doesn’t happen that often!
There is a whole CD of Whitbourn's music available from the Choir, under the title “Luminosity”. A sample of this is available on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndG9Px1ybos
I was reminded that the right music at the right time has a unique power to lift us to a heightened emotional reality where the sunshine of hope and renewal breaks through the darkness. In a troubled and troubling world music - possibly above all other arts - comforts and restores.
But to reach the heights music needs performanes of vision, intensity, control, and commitment. This choir has all in in spades, and it is worth travelling far to hear them. Their next performance is on March 10th in Oxford, when they will be doing the stunning Frank Martin Mass.