Heaven and Earth ()

concert poster

This Summer we are thrilled to bring three beloved works to Lichfield Cathedral: Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine; and Antonin Dvořák’s Te Deum.

Fauré’s Requiem is one of the most human of all sacred works, slowly shifting its gaze from earthly vulnerability to the hope of eternity. It was almost certainly written as a musical tribute to his father who died in 1885, three years before Fauré began work on the piece. Unlike many requiem masses. Fauré’s is noted for its serene, calm outlook, providing musical solace and a most peaceful vision of paradise.

In addition to his Requiem and the Cantique, there will also be the chance to hear an orchestral version of another of his favourite works — the Pavane in F#m, named after a slow processional dance from the Spanish Court.

The Te Deum (We praise thee, O God) by Dvořák is uplifting and joyful in character and certainly one of the most spectacular of his works. It was written at the beginning of his “American period” which would culminate in the triumphant New World Symphony. Dvořák’s faith was coloured by his love of nature and the composition of his Te Deum has an earthiness not normally found in the ethereal world of sacred music.

So, please join us for an enchanting evening where we aim to share a unique vision of the heavenly and earthly realms.



Lichfield Cathedral, The Close, Lichfield, WS13 7LD [map]

« Carol Concert (Dec 2023)Winter concert (Nov 2024) »


Heaven and Earth

The Lichfield Cathedral Chorus Summer Concert usually has a lighter feel to it than its winter counterpart. However, the power of their recent performance in the Cathedral of Dvořák’s operatic Te Deum and three works by Gabriel Fauré — his orchestral Pavane, the delightful Cantique de Jean Racine and his much-loved Requiem — showed a profundity of musicianship whilst still offering delightful listening.

Conductor Ben Lamb had clearly asked for a powerful start from his orchestra, the Lichfield Camerata, as well as from his singers, and the impact of the opening timpani was so great that we were still reeling from the reverberations and could barely hear the choir’s dramatic entrance! But the enthusiasm was clear, and God was truly praised with loud acclamation. Balance is always an issue in the cathedral, and once again the sound of the brass sometimes made the undoubtedly fine singing of the choir difficult to hear, but more lightly-scored sections such as the Aeterna Fac chorus gave us a chance to appreciate the new arrangement of the choir, with basses brought closer into the fold and tenors in prime position to project as much as they could. This worked well, particularly considering the imbalance of numbers of voices in each section.

The entrance of the soprano, Augusta Hebbert, gave a wonderfully contrasting serene moment after the bluster of the opening. Her professionalism and clear, true voice shone through the building, beautifully matched at one point with the rich sounds of the beautiful cor anglais solo. There were moments of reflection of the famous Verdi Requiem, written almost twenty years earlier, both in some of the dramatic choral writing, and also in the bass-baritone solo lines, sung richly by William Jeys, who had great musical sensitivity and a full, and still maturing, richness of tone.

The contrast between the spectacular loud Allelujas of the end of the Dvořák and the serenity of Fauré’s Pavane was wonderful. We were instantly transported into a place of calm, with the flute solo beautifully played and a very stylish approach in both strings and woodwind. The Cantique de Jean Racine also gave the choir a time of calm, this work being well-known by the choir and unhurried in its warm, legato phrases. There was a rich warmth in the tone, and a sense of confidence, which prepared us well for the next event, the Requiem, possibly Fauré’s most famous work.

It is certainly a wonderful summation of his skills in microcosm. The subtlety of the orchestration allows the voices to shine through at the most important moments, making balance less of an issue here. Both soloists again gave excellent performances…the soprano’s Pie Jesu, usually sung in almost choirboy fashion, was imbued with a warmth and perfect phrasing and flow that is rarely heard, and the baritone gave a masterclass in Latin/Italian diction, particularly in his operatic Libera me. There were a few moments where the choir was uncertain of the conductor’s speeds and became a little sluggish, such as in the Offertoire, but many tricky moments were handled with care, including the tuning of both the Sanctus and notably the In paradisum at the end of the work, which the sopranos sang beautifully in tune. The idea of placing the solo violinist some way to the side of the performance may have worked differently in different parts of the building…it did make coordination somewhat tricky, but also focused our ears on the violin rather more than usual.

This work, though apparently straightforward and melodic, covers a complete gamut of emotions, and this particular performance and that of the Cantique made a very fitting tribute to David Johnson, a stalwart of the choir for over 50 years whose funeral took place very recently. They were amongst his favourite works, and he would have been proud to hear this performance, and to reflect on the progress the choir has made since its inception, so many decades ago.

Megan Barr, June 2024