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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Review: Membra Jesu Nostri by The Wordsworth Singers, at St Bede's Church, Carlisle

HAVING recently moved to Carlisle, I can, with hand on heart, say that the introduction to The Wordsworth Singers has been a highlight amongst the newness.

I was fortunate enough to be amongst the audience at a performance of Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, a work new to me, in the resonant and movingly appropriate setting of St Bede’s Church, Wigton Road.

The colourful paintings behind the altar depicting scenes from Christ’s life were the perfect backdrop to ‘a very personal meditation on the suffering of Christ’.

The piece often called the first Lutheran oratorio is exquisitely engaging in the perfect marriage of text with the vocal and instrumental writing. We hear wonderfully complex rhythms and spine tingling dissonances and resolutions.

This piece was given by musicians who were completely committed to it and who expressed themselves in myriad instrumental and vocal colours.

The instrumental playing was enthralling throughout, especially the dialogue between the two violinists, Anna Östberg and Katie-Bethan Holmes.

The solos and ensemble singing were at times moving in their elegant beauty and at other times affecting in their strength.

Particularly touching for me was the sensitive and refined singing of Julie Leavett and Fiona Weakley.

There were memorable moments of the most glorious sound and within the most complex polyphony were clear and rich lines.

The joyful final Amen was luscious, and exciting with its outrageous cross rhythms.

Mark Hindley led with a fine, understated subtlety. Organ solos by Sweelinck played by Mark gave space to meditate on the music and surroundings, bringing the singing into relief.

I left light of step, having experienced a first which will definitely not be a last.

Charlotte Jackson

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