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Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and McCartney Ecce Cor Meum in Birmingham Town Hall.

If ever there was a concert of two halves this was it.

The evening began with Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, a work of considerable spiritual and emotional intensity, which Colin Baines and the Birmingham Choral Union conveyed with splendid commitment and feeling for mood.

Despite not having enough voices to match the score’s symphonic power there was still much to appreciate, especially Baines’ sensitive shaping of the two middle movements (the Dirge for Two Veterans was most compelling) and the orchestra’s well-mannered brass and percussion.

After the interval we heard the Birmingham première of Paul McCartney’s cantata Ecce Cor Meum, in part an expression of personal loss (the death of Linda McCartney) but mostly reflections on peace, love and other New Age sentiments.

And what a sentimental piece it is too, with drippy little repetitive melodies that go nowhere, and a text (McCartney’s own) with all the profundity of a greetings card.

Despite everyone’s efforts – Baines, his willing orchestra, the soprano Sarah-Ann Cromwell (who managed to sing phrases like We may find a trace/Of a state of grace/In the saddest face without cracking up) and sweet-voiced choristers from the Blue Coat School – the result was chorally unconvincing and thoroughly dispiriting.

One cheer, then, for the opportunity to experience this dreary composition. We now know what to avoid.

Rating: ***

Mar 25 2011 by David Hart.”

 

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