Every year during Advent, the Direction des Affaires Culturelles de Monaco organizes two free concerts of Baroque music. This year, for the first time, The Man and I got ourselves organized to attend one of them, on Tuesday evening, 4 December.
The program included Gregorian chant, Renaissance and modern music, all performed by The Gesualdo Six, who are actually seven men: countertenors Guy James and Alexander Chance, tenors Joseph Wicks and Josh Cooter, baritone Michael Craddock, bass Sam Mitchell, and musical director Owain Park, who also sings bass.
We arrived at the Chapel of the Visitation with twenty minutes to spare, but most of the seats were already taken or reserved for VIPs. There were spaces on the back row bench, which turned out to be a much better position than we had first thought. When the concert began, the ensemble sang the first piece at the back of the chapel, within arm's reach of us. It was a suitably festive hymn, Veni, veni Emmanuel, just the thing to put us into the Christmas spirit. After this, the choir processed up the aisle to the altar, where, for most of the evening they sang under the gaze of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It was a glorious concert of deeply emotional music. Each voice possessed strength and clarity, yet blended as one harmonious whole. The basses seemed to catch at your heart and tug it from your chest, the baritone and tenors carried it along the nave as if on a breeze, until the counter-tenors caught it up and sent it soaring to the rafters. It was almost an out-of-body experience.
The ensemble's rendering of Tallis's painfully beautiful dissonances in Videte Miraculum (16th century) was exquisite. It was a pleasure to discover Estonian Arvo Pärt's work, Morning Star (2007), which was outstanding. Another high point was Phos hilaron (2015), composed by the consort's own musical director, Owain Park. This was performed with individual singers placed around the chapel, giving us a live version of surround-sound.
At the end of the evening, we headed home with joyful steps, feeling as if we had heard the glad singing of a host of angels.
Veni, veni Emmanuel, trad. arr. Lawson
Rorate caeli, anon
Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland, Michael Praetorius
Videte Miraculum, Thomas Tallis
The Promised Light of Life, Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Quem vidistis pastores, Floriano Canale
Canite tuba, Jacob Handl
Laetentur caeli, anon
Morning Star, Arvo Part
Audivi vocem de caelo, John Taverner
Phos hilaron, Owain Park
Puer natus est, anon
Tribus Miraculis, Hans Leo Hassler
Love came down at Christmas, Eleanor Daley
Hodie Christus natus est, Andrea Gabrieli
Encore: The Oxen, Jonathan Rathbone