Gabriel Fauré: Requiem

Saturday 7 July 2018 at St Mary's Church, Prestbury, Cheltenham

There are several things for which I will stop the world. English success in the 2018 World Cup is currently one of them, and among the rest is a performance of Fauré’s Requiem. Under their assured musical director David Dewar, Musica Vera cruised smoothly through a splendid performance of this perennial gem, proving once again that, with disciplined and harmonious choirs, small is still beautiful.

Though few in number, this ensemble punched impressively above its weight all evening, and St. Mary’s Church re-echoed exquisitely to a sumptuous blend of voices, well balanced and displaying particular strength in the high tenor and soprano lines.

Having set out its stall with Gluck’s De Profundis Clamavi, the choir briefly gave way to a polished rendition of Johann Stamitz’s Sinfonia in E Flat Major by the recently formed Musica Vera Camerata, before re-asserting itself with two demanding pieces Benedicam Dominum and Ecce Sacerdos Magnus by Josef Haydn’s younger brother Johann. (No, I didn’t know he had one, either) The quality level dipped momentarily as a slightly uneven presentation of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, invariably on the same bill as his Requiem, closed the first half.

To the main event, then, and they swiftly upped the ante during the resonant opening Introit and Kyrie, whilst driven by some sturdy horn work, Sanctus and Agnus Dei built powerfully to their thrilling climaxes. The two solos Pie Jesu and Libera Me were delivered with pin-point accuracy by Isobel Wiltshire and Michael Fryers respectively, and the blissful In Paradisum left me in seventh heaven. At the end of a delightful evening’s entertainment, the prolonged applause from the small, but appreciative audience told its own eloquent story.

Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo

An uplifting and joyous evening.

Saturday 23 March 2013 at St Gregory's Church, Cheltenham

On a very cold evening we were transported to Germany and Italy by Musica Vera for an evening of Baroque music.  This enthusiastic choir gave a joyous performance of Vivaldi's Gloria (RV589) which they obviously enjoyed singing.  Conductor David Dewar showed his involvement in the music, and drew expressive passages from his singers. With appropriate pacing of each section and variety of dynamics, we could appreciate the choir's hard work in preparation.  The Musica Vera Camerata accompanied with style and necessary rhythmic drive; sequences were never stressed and ritornelli received clear emphasis.  Soloists Kathryn Skipp, Kate Bennett and Sylvia Strange added pleasure to the performance.  Soprano Kate Bennett used her strong, clear voice to advantage in Bach's demanding Cantata Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen.  The cello obligato was most sensitively played by Nicola Clarke, and David Jarratt-Knock's trumpet obligato was an uplifting joy.  Soprano Kathryn Skipp gave a sensitive and poised performance of part of Vivaldi's motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera.  The Choir is more at home with concerted music and they certainly gave of their best in the Gloria.

Anne Dunn, Gloucestershire Echo.

The Holly and the Ivy
Saturday 8 December 2012 at St Mary's Church, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham.

"Where good things come in small packages."

Celebrating both Advent and Christmas seasons in the calm of St Mary's Church, David Dewar's debut as Musica Vera's conductor and director proved a gentle, uplifting experience.

Cleverly programmed plainsong and a cappella close harmony choral works in slower tempi created a reverential atmosphere.  In both the traditional and modern music, attention to excellent dynamics lent colour to the narrative of the Christmas story.  Clear but understated conducting indicated the sweeping phrases.

In particular appreciable synchronisation  and accurate intonation in Veni Emmanuel, Qui Creavit Celum and Otche Nash (The Lord's Prayer by Ippolitov-Ivanov) created a devout air in contrast to the usual everyday hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations.  Sung in Latin and Russian along with Tchaikovsky's The Crown of Roses, they gave a classic element to the performance.  Difficult harmonies in Messaien's O Sacrum Convivium and Morten Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium were convincingly confident.

In lighter vein, Holst's Christmas Day and Haydn's The Heavens are Telling escalated the tempo and mood joyously respectful but prone to instability in execution in some passages.

Two excellent organ solos added variety. Walther's 18th century Herzlich Lieb Hab Ich Dich played by David Dewar introduced a single line theme developed fugally on the manuals.  In contrast, John Wade improvised on a Medley of Christmas Carols ending with Gordon Phillips' Carol Prelude.  John's empathetic accompaniment of the Choir was evident throughout the concert.

June Nixon's interesting arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy moved at a quick pace and with increased choral and organ volume would have concluded the concert on a fitting climax.

Though few in number, Musica Vera worked as a small vocal orchestra blending softly throughout with each person being significant.

Jill Bacon, Gloucestershire Echo.