"Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening, into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence but one equal music; no fears nor hopes but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings but one equal eternity; in the habitations of thy Glory and Dominion, world without end. Amen."
William Harris’s peerless setting of John Donne’s poem is the inspiration behind an exciting and innovative project
unfolding in Leeds this summer. We've performed and recorded a programme of
modern sacred music in the fabulous space and acoustic that is Leeds’ Victoria
Quarter. Following two flashmob-type appearances during shopping hours on the
weekend of the Tour de France's Grand Départ from Leeds, the concert attracted
an audience of some 170 on a glorious summer evening, with the sunlight catching
the stained glass in the roof and casting all sorts of mystical lights as we
sang. The recording is currently being edited and prepared for release in the
autumn. Watch this space !
The programme includes works by the likes of Tavener, Whitacre, Lauridsen, Pärt, Beamish and MacMillan alongside Harris, Parry and three modern Yorkshire greats – Edward Bairstow, Francis Jackson and Philip Moore – performed in a shopping centre...
Not quite any old shopping centre, however - the Victoria Quarter was created twenty years ago by enclosing a network of marbled Victorian arcades beneath the largest stained-glass window in Europe, creating a magnificent cathedral-like space and acoustic that
also houses some seriously high-end retail therapy centres - more a cathedral of commerce.
Intrigued? St Peter’s Singers have sung here before – for some years now, actually – delighting diners at the Harvey Nichols Espresso Bar in the weeks before Christmas, and this was where the idea germinated. “Last Christmas we sang Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium alongside the carols, and you could see just how enraptured many of the guests were. They may not have heard anything like this before,” said Quentin Brown, the choir's Concert Manager.
“We thought just how exciting it would be to bring more of this
fantastic Cathedral music – music that by its eloquent simplicity awakens our
spirituality with feelings of life, love, mystery, timelessness and awe – to a
totally accessible public space, where, thanks to the architecture and the
acoustics, it can still work. Normally such sonorities don’t escape our great
churches, and although people are being drawn to cathedrals in growing numbers
to hear choral music, most will still never hear it. This is why we are calling
our project ‘One Equal Music’.
Update (late September)
The One Equal Music recording sessions in July went extremely well, and we completed all the pieces we had planned to sing. There were one or two challenges of the sort to be expected when recording on location, which we have now resolved:
A large advertising cube arrived after the first session in the middle of the space we were using, forcing us to relocate to another spot in the VQ;
A rainstorm of biblical proportions broke half way through our first session, which created background noise as it drained through the VQ's internal ducts. It was impossible to know how bad it was until editing started. Once we'd ascertained just how much of a problem the rain was causing for the clarity of the recording, we scheduled a fourth and final session in September to re-record the affected pieces.
We suffered a delay of a few weeks due to this extra session, but we're now back on track for a release window of November.
Watch this space for details of how to buy your copy !