From the sublime… A tenor’s view of things The Gloria is indeed sublime. Excitement builds steadily from the first notes until a moment of silence gives a final twist to the tension just before all four voices crash in with “Gloria, gloria”. The exuberant mood is maintained until a moment of relaxation towards the end of the movement provides a platform for a final glorious “Gloria in excelsis deo”. The movements in the piece conjure a wide variety of moods. The second, Et in terra pax, is slow and thoughtful, with long phrases, in contrast to the short, quick, confident phrases of the Gloria. My favourites are, perhaps, Propter magnam gloriam, confident, cheerful, optimistic and Domine Deus, melancholy, anxious, insistent. They are all different, but in each, the music fits the words in an apparently natural way. I confess that it is the sound of the words, not their meaning, to which I respond. Vivaldi helps the singer, Sullivan sets traps. I tend to think that you can learn the words incidentally, just in the flow of rehearsal. Titwillow for example, gives us a little story, carried forward within each verse and from verse to verse, at conversational speed. Sing that a few times and you’ve got it memorised. The British tar, on the other hand, has no narrative to give structure to the piece. It is a list of attributes of the form His X should Y at first fast and then faster. There isn’t really any progression from verse to verse. There is no logic that determines the ordering of the list and so no help for the chorister trying to learn words that must be in this order but could very well have been in quite a different order. The music is no help, it could accommodate these phrases in any order. Only the rather fuller sentences at the start and finish give some respite from the insistent task of memory at leisure and recall at speed. Other pieces, Modern Major General for example, set other traps for the unwary, in that case passing the text at speed from voice to voice. Much of the pleasure for the audience lies in watching the choir’s success at dodging these traps There were two splendid novelties at this concert. The whistling. How does he prevent his mouth from going dry just as he draws a breath to whistle? How does he avoid subsiding into a weary little hiss, like the rest of us? But the choreography was a real first, sending Jamie strutting from one side of the stage to other as he sang. It will stick long in the mind. No doubt someone will tell me that both whistling and dancing were commonplace years ago. With G and S it could hardly be otherwise, I suppose. The soloists, Naomi, Ella and Jamie, did their stuff with aplomb, as always. It is astonishing to hear them tackling such a range of styles, Vivaldi, Sullivan and assorted solos, so competently and confidently, all in one evening.