Watch: Three Palaces Festival, Ora Singers, Re-imaginings

Albert G Storace reviews a striking performance by the award-winning Ora Singers, from St Peter’s Church in London.

Anybody who follows the arts scene and is lucky enough to hear this splendid group of choral singers cannot but vouch for the superb excellence of their delivery. Their founder and director Suzi Digby elicits lovely singing from them. They do it just by using their voices: the best instruments of all.

The purity of their polyphonic singing has to be heard to be believed. Their singing is what one needs in these dire times coming across as it did online from the impressive ambience of St Peter’s Church in London’s Vauxhall. The church is a magnificent example of mid-Victorian Gothic Revival, on part of the site of then once notorious Vauxhall [pleasure] Gardens.

The ambience provided by the church, and the acoustics for which it is very well-known, conjure up a special magic.  Close ups of the high altar and other architectural elements enhanced the performance which had an interesting format. 

The maximum number of singers seemed to be about 20, while there were some works in which the number was 10 (four male and six female singers) or even in once case part of a work was sung by just five females. Whatever the number, what strikes one in the delivery of every work is bliss for those who love choral singing of this quality. The texture is beautiful and the sections blend very well in perfect balance.

Another very markedly interesting aspect of the performance (in this presentation as part of the eighth edition of The Three Palaces Festival), is the re-imagining exercise undertaken by Michelle Castelletti’s programming together with Suzi Digby and her vision of the Golden Renaissance of the 21st century.

There is a selection of three pairs of works. Each consist of a Renaissance work re-imagined and reflected upon by modern composers commissioned by ORA for the purpose.

Thus, Antoine Brumel (c.1460-1512/3)’s Sicut Lilium inter Spinas was paired with John Barber (b.1980)’s Sicut Lilium.  The tradition of great English choral singing and great composers was reflected in the performance of the Tudor era. Tallis’s awe-inspiring Videte Miraculum and his pupil Byrd’s Ave Verum, respectively re-imagined by Richard Allain (b.1965) and Roderick Williams (b.1965). The latter’s reflection was more complex and longer than Byrd’s and with its three-choir setting, it was a very fitting conclusion.

If you’d like to read more about the Three Palaces Festival, check out Out of the Cage, a cycle of seven music films, or Nosferatu The Forgotten Fragments of a Symphony of Horrors.

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