A review of Music Durham’s cathedral concert, “Summer in the City: Fanfare”

Written by Joanna Robbins

On the 3rd of June, Music Durham held their annual concert in the cathedral where a selection of both vocal and instrumental ensembles from Music Durham come together to perform. This year, the concert kicked off Durham University’s annual arts festival, “Summer in the City”, a celebration of the arts and culture that the University brings to the city. The concert focused on the celebration of diversity, coming out of COVID, the Queen’s Jubilee, and was a nod to Sir Thomas Allen leaving his position as Chancellor of the University.

As the audience entered the cathedral, they were greeted by members of the two of the a capella societies, Footnotes and Northern Lights. Throughout the evening, the compères, Sarah Pierce and Sam Jones kept the audience entertained with their lively conversation whilst the stage was prepared for the next group.

The concert contained varied repertoire from a diverse selection of composers and artists such as ABBA, Georges Bizet, Hubert Parry, Stevie Wonder, and Emilie Mayer, to name just a few. Some ensembles such as the Durham University Orchestral Society (DUOS) and the Durham University Palatinate Orchestra (DUPO) chose to celebrate diversity by performing the music of little-known female composers, Grace Williams (1906-1977) and Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) respectively. Others chose to focus on the theme of the Queen’s Jubilee such as the Concert Band who played Charles Ives’ Variations on “America”, which consists of variations on God Save the Queen, and the Choral Society who performed Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel and I Was Glad by Hubert Parry, both of which have been played at coronations.

The cathedral can be a tricky venue to play in due to the large amount of reverb and the tendency for the sound to get rather lost. Some groups dealt with this tricky acoustic better than others, with some suffering a bit from the lyrics of songs being indistinct and from the loud sections of pieces not being as loud as they probably would have liked. Hill Orchestra, Chamber Choir and the Choral Society perhaps navigated the acoustic the best.

The piece “Long Road” by Ēriks Ešenvalds was the highlight of the evening, with the soaring soprano parts and soprano saxophone solo perfectly complimenting the acoustic of the cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful, and a worthy celebration.

The concert was brought to a jubilant finish with a collaboration between all of the singers who had performed in the concert and DUOS with a version of “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. This excellent rendition brought the concert to a satisfying conclusion.

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