Chapelle du Roi, St John’s Smith Square

4.00

The British a cappella ensemble Chapelle du Roi was set up by singer-conductor Alistair Dixon with two objectives: to bring Renaissance music to a wider audience, and also, as their brochure puts it, ‘to unearth music that has languished unseen and unheard’.

It was with this laudable aim in mind that Dixon attempted to scramble into his attic last week, in pursuit of a score for their St John’s Smith Square recital. But his ladder went flying, and he ended up with a multiple leg-fracture: he therefore had to attend his concert in plaster, while his colleague Stephen Rice did the conducting.

The programme, entitled ‘The Absolution of England’, focused on a fascinating moment in musical history. The first sin which England needed to absolve was Henry VIII’s rejection of Papal authority, and his vengeful treatment of those of his subjects who refused to follow his lead: ‘man for all seasons’ Thomas More was executed for refusing to swear allegiance. Twenty years later, Mary Tudor took England back into the Papal fold, but when Elizabeth I initiated her own Catholic suppression, a second excommunication took place. The first half of Chapelle’s programme reflected Henry’s sin, with the second half reflecting his daughter’s persecution of her Catholics.

After a graceful plainchant introduction, the Chapelle launched into Thomas Tallis’s Mass ‘Puer natus est nobis’ – the new-born boy being both Jesus and the hoped-for son from Mary’s pregnancy. With three sopranos and two singers for each of the other three voices, the Chapelle created a wonderfully muscular sound, vibrato-free but still luxurious thanks to the richness of the polyphony; the ‘Gloria’ was glorious indeed, and in this church’s lovely acoustic the lines of the ‘Sanctus’ soared to the heavens. Tallis observed strict equality among the voices, leading to an exquisite balance as the work unfolded; the texture was immaculately smooth, yet full of harmonic surprises.

New to me, the Flemish composer Philippe de Monte proved a great discovery: his setting of ‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept’ was certainly the equal of William Byrd’s setting of that psalm, which followed. The latter work rang with the anguished intensity you’d expect from a composer whose Catholic allegiance meant he lived in constant danger.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate