Antiphon’s repertoire is firmly rooted in the English Choral Tradition, with an emphasis on early sacred music – the works of Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons et al. Bit it also extends across the continent to include composers such as Lassus, Palestrina, Couperin, and across the centuries to encompass the extensive treasury of English Victorian music, right through to the music of present-day composers. And Antiphon have been known to engage in the odd pop or gospel number.
Some past reviews:
An evening of contrast, character and occasion – Antiphon Hexham Abbey
Rachmanninov Vespers, Hexham Abbey November 2019 (Michael Haynes)
The prospect of hearing a choir sing from the top of the Abbey’s ancient night stair is always a thrilling one. Candlelight added to the nocturnal vision. Antiphon chose a programme including Rachmaninov’s wonderful All-Night Vigil (also known as Vespers) which, preceded by a selection of renaissance choral pieces, gave us a fine appetiser to the banquet which followed the interval.
The concert began with Philippe de Monte’s Sit Gloria Domini, which was lively and uplifting, characterised by colourful harmonic twists and turns. Hans Leo Hassler’s Beatus vir was lyrical and light. Louis Bourgeois’ familiar hymn O gladsome light was warm and heartening, while Heinrich Schütz’s Lobt Gott had a solemn and reverential air.
Palestrina’s Magnificat begins with plainsong, then moves to heavenly polyphony which rang out beautifully across the audience.
Thomas Weelkes’ Gloria in Excelsis Deo ingeniously combines Latin and English texts. Its curious harmonies still sounding startling 400 years on. It is something of a tour de force, a miniature masterpiece, and not the easiest to pull off neatly.
After the interval the highlights of the Vespers gave us some of the most impassioned singing of the evening. With a welcome vibrancy and intensity, it was lovely to hear the notoriously low bass notes and also the fuller and higher tessituras of the work. A wonderful solo and haunting divisi passages seemed to transport us to a far off Orthodox Church where we were no longer in the audience but in the assembled congregation.
Under the excellent direction of John Roper, there was a feeling of expression, spontaneity fluidity, contrast, character and occasion. With admirable blend and tuning throughout the evening there was much to enjoy! Hearty congratulations are due to this highly committed team of singers.
Charming Evening in Blanchland
Helen Compson, Hexham Courant, July 2015
DELICIOUS! I could actually end the review of Antiphon’s latest concert right there, but why miss the opportunity to rub salt in the wounds of those who missed out?
For the evening in 13th century Blanchland Abbey was as charming as they come: lashings of sweet music in an atmospheric setting, topped off by strawberries and Pimms. Yum!
Established by local historian and accomplished songstress Judy Lloyd and directed by John Roper, the Hexham-based chamber choir specialises in English and Continental music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
While they tend to roll out their more heavy-duty performances at their winter concert – the first choir to perform in Hexham Abbey’s newly instituted Great Hall in February, they presented Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Ariana and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas on that occasion – their summer concert is an altogether lighter affair.
Three French madrigals, seven of the 11 songs from the folk songbook The Sprig of Thyme (arranged by John Rutter) and a sprinkling of beautiful middle English songs followed, not forgetting a strong rendition of Gershwin’s Summertime by soprano Mary Emmett and violin solos by Louise Khazaee.
The only blot on my otherwise lovely evening was the inclusion of Benjamin Britten’s Five Flower Songs. Am I the only person who can’t get away with that man?
Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas with Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna – February 28 2015 in Hexham Abbey Great Hall
Antiphon sang Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna with great tenderness, rage and beauty Poppy Holden, Head of Vocal Studies, Newcastle University, 2007-13
This was one of the best ensemble performances of Dido and Aeneas I’ve heard
Denis McCaldin Director of the Haydn Society of Great Britain and Professor Emeritus of Music at Lancaster University.