It was a privilege to be part of a wonderful evening of Mozart at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama last Saturday (23rd April), performing two of his best-loved sacred works – the Great Mass in C Minor, written to celebrate the composer’s marriage to his wife Constanze, and the enduringly popular Requiem.
Although most of us had performed the Requiem and C Minor Mass many times before, this was the first time Cantemus had sung these works under Huw’s baton. Rehearsals had been an exhilarating vocal experience, as we sought to get to grips with the tricky coloratura lines and some of the more angular harmonic textures, as well as an interesting lesson in the history of these intriguing Mass settings, both intriguingly incomplete yet no less powerful for that.
Huw conducting the rehearsal (credit: David Kipling)
We were fortunate to be joined again by the College’s wonderful period ensemble-in-residence, Rejouissance, led by Simon Jones, the College’s Head of Strings. The orchestra was one of the largest we have worked with in recent years, with an expanded wind section that included a pair of one of the more unusual period instruments; the basset horn. Both the afternoon rehearsal and the evening performance were a joy; it was thrilling to sing alongside such a superb group of instrumentalists, with the double-choir setting of “Qui Tollis” in the C Minor Mass a particular high point.
Rejouissance’s wind section (credit: David Kipling)
Our quartet of soloists, Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Martha McLorinan (mezzo), Guy Cutting (tenor) and Julian Empett (baritone) were first class. Martha demonstrated a huge vocal range and rapier-sharp coloratura technique in her opening C Minor Mass solo “Laudamus Te”, as well as an impressive contralto register in the Requiem’s lower-lying vocal lines. Guy sang with expression and lyricism in both works, while the sonorous tones of baritone Julian Empett lent a regal authority to “Tuba Mirum”. Meanwhile, Elin’s ethereal rendition of the beautiful and operatic “Et Incarnatus Est”, which included a faultless top C, was one of the highlights of the night.
The solo quartet in rehearsal (credit: David Kipling)
Elin rehearses “Lux aeterna” (credit: David Kipling)
Applause after a great concert (credit: David Kipling)
Flowers and gifts for our wonderful soloists (credit: David Kipling)
…and don’t forget the leader of the orchestra! (credit: David Kipling)
We were blessed with a wonderful audience, and the Dora Stoutzker hall at the RWCMD was nearly at capacity. After the Requiem’s final “Quia Pius Est” had been sung, flowers and gifts presented to our soloists, and the scores and instruments tidied away, we headed off for a well-earned curry. There may have been a few sore throats and hoarse voices the following day, but the wonderful memories of a fantastic evening made everything worth it.
A big thank you to Huw for conducting us with his usual aplomb, to all our soloists, to Simon Jones and Rejouissance, and to the RWCMD for hosting us so well (and allowing us to take these pictures!). Most of all, though, we’re hugely grateful to everyone who came along to hear us; we wouldn’t be able to stage ambitious concerts like this without your support. Thank you!