Concert Preview – ‘Gaude! Gaude! Gaude!’

(Dunelm Consort – Monday 21st November 2016)

Today we went to the Dunelm Consort’s rehearsal in Durham Cathedral’s marvellous Chapter House, to get a glimpse of what’s in store for their eagerly anticipated Michaelmas concert this Monday 21st November. Featuring some rarely-performed works of English Polyphony taken from the Eton Choirbook, this concert offers masterworks of English polyphony all centred on the theme of the Virgin Mary. Highlights will certainly include John Browne’s ‘Salve Regina I’ and ‘Gaude Gloriosa’ by Thomas Tallis, both of which are large works of their own right, and feature extensive solo work. It was exciting to hear the consort rehearse in the concert venue; and, true to its reputation, the Chapter House provides the perfect space both in terms of acoustics and of aesthetics.

The consort only recently became affiliated with Music Durham, and like many other affiliated ensembles, is student-led. Director Jonathan Allsopp is also Director of Music at Hatfield College, and Organ Scholar at the Cathedral, and we spoke to him about his intentions for this concert and other exciting things coming up this year.

Asked what makes the Dunelm Consort unique in a university city so full of choral music in collegiate chapels and ensembles, Jonathan highlighted the focused commitment and distinct repertoire of this ensemble:

‘…We realise that Durham students’ schedules are already heavily packed with all manner of rehearsals and commitments, so we don’t insist on weekly rehearsals for the group. Instead we ask people to prepare the notes before, so that we can have intensive rehearsals leading up to each concert to really perfect the performance. Above all though, we wanted to explore repertoire that the typical Durham student might not normally get to sing or play, such as very early English polyphony or great Baroque works with orchestra. We are particularly passionate about this music, and want to open it up to as many people as possible.’

The Virgin Mary is the unifying theme behind this performance, and Jonathan explained that there is ‘a rich repertoire of Marian music from the pre-reformation period, especially in England’. This was used as the basis for choosing repertoire, and certainly Durham Cathedral has survived centuries of religious change, reform and conflict. It therefore feels quite fitting that the consort will return to the chapter house, the council chamber of Durham’s founding monastic community, to perform this great polyphony.

Asked whether the Chapter house was his favourite venue in Durham for performing choral music, Jonathan agreed, saying this space ‘…provides a resonant acoustic with an inspiring history and architecture, and although not the largest venue in Durham, is perfect for the sort of music we are performing.’

Unlike some larger buildings in the city, the Chapter house seems to provide the perfect balance between clarity and reverb, and certainly in some of the verse sections one could easily distinguish the individual soloists, while also hearing real unity in the florid unfolding cadences and chordal sections of these stunning pieces. It can confidently be said that this evening is not-to-be-missed!

For more information and to buy tickets, follow this link – https://www.musicdurham.org/event/dunelmmarian/