Building on their previous triumphs last year, Dunelm Consort presented their Michaelmas concert ‘Divine Profanity’. The consort specialise in early music, and whilst previous concerts have had a focus on deeply rooted sacred music, this program was well put together, and explored the fascinating relationship surrounding both sacred and secular music throughout the 15th,16th and early 17th Century.
It was a shame that a concert of such high quality did not receive a larger audience, however despite this, a beautifully intimate performance took place in the setting of Hild Bede Chapel. The consort was led by Ethan Darby, in his debut with the ensemble he demonstrated confidence yet sensitivity throughout.
The evening began with a traditional French secular song L’homme armé – it immediately engaged the audience with a powerful, clear and articulated opening, which set a strong precedent for what was about to follow. The Kyrie and Gloria from Obrecht’s polyphonic mass was based
upon the previously heard chanson tune. The Alto’s and tenors were displayed in their full glory, and particular mention must be given to the richness presented by the bass section. David Booer’s intonations throughout this piece should be highly commended, he provided a strong basis for the tenor section. Similarly, the syncopated duet between Lewis Cullen and Phil Durrant was well balanced and executed precisely.
Qual donn’ attende a gloriosa fama was the next highlight of the first half. Despite some uncertainty in the more exposed moments, the Consort demonstrated an exceptional full sound, with use of some very effective crescendos.
After being served with a very festive cup of mulled wine in the interval, the ensemble returned with a selection of Monteverdi Madrigals set by Aquilino Coppini. They began with a joyful opening of O Jesu mea vita, the clear phrasing of this piece was impressive, and despite the harmonically challenging moments, the balance between the parts was well maintained. A particularly enjoyable
moment of this piece was the call and response section sung delicately by the sopranos before the jubilant entry by the lower parts. Qui laudes tuas cantat was a challenging piece, and at it did feel rushed in places. However, the quaver passages were seamlessly executed and it was well controlled by Darby.
Some of madrigals within the middle of the selection could have been more rehearsed. Whilst some of the entries of Pulchrae sunt were confident, it could have been approached with more delicacy and dynamic contrast. However, the unison sections were impressive as the sound soared through the acoustics of Hild Bede Chapel. O stellae had moments of musicality, but the plainsong could have been more coordinated, this was also the case for their rendition Sancta Maria. Despite this small drop in quality mid-way through the second half, the final two madrigals did not fail to impress. The rapid passage work of Rutilante in nocte was well rehearsed and supported by the tenors and basses, but pronunciation was lost at times. The final piece was characterised by frequent chromaticism, in which tuning was well maintained. The delicacy of this finalé evoked a serene atmosphere among the audience.
Overall, the evening was thoroughly enjoyable and it was particularly rewarding to see fresher’s Golden, Sutcliffe, Normand and Parker contribute to such a well-esteemed ensemble. The choice of program and setting suited this concert perfectly. We highly recommended attending future concerts by Dunelm Consort, they never fail to offer high quality performances and we look forward to hearing what they will be working towards next term.