Culture: Fine Voices in Flawless Performance of Choral Music; Brinkburn Music Festival at Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland

Article excerpt

Byline: Thomas Hall

THE second weekend of the 15th Brinkburn Music Festival was topped and tailed by the glories of English choral music, the Gabrieli Consort and Players revisiting their Purcell programme from the very first Brinkburn Festival and The Cardinall's Musick making its Brinkburn debut with a cappella music by William Byrd.

Byrd's career coincided with the reign of Elizabeth I, placing him among the recusant Roman Catholics whose beliefs put their lives in danger. But fame and friends in high places saw him through, and even as a member of the Chapel Royal his music was sung at clandestine masses.

Replacing the 8-piece ensemble's indisposed director Andrew Carwood, alto Patrick Craig seemed entirely at ease multi-tasking as singer conductor and commentator, explaining structural points in the psalm settings, motets and masses and hidden messages to the Catholic faithful in the texts. Whether in various permutations of voices drawn from pairs of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, or all combined, the technical standards were outstanding with flawless tuning, pinpoint accurate entries and firmness of tone in even the quietest passages. …