In the spare modern elegance of Hall One at Kings Place, choral octet Platinum Consort, under the direction of their founder and conductor Scott Inglis-Kidger, gave an impressive and impeccably presented performance of works from their critically acclaimed recording In the Dark, written for, or inspired by, the Tenebrae tradition.
Tenebrae – Latin for “shadows” or “darkness” – is the religious service celebrated during Holy Week, commencing the evening before or early in the morning of Maundy Thursday. The distinctive ceremony of Tenebrae is the gradual extinguishing of candles, to the accompaniment of sung or chanted texts and psalms. These ancient texts have inspired some of the most poignant and profoundly emotional compositions in their retelling of the Holy Week story. Platinum Consort’s concert featured choral works by contemporary composers James MacMillan and Richard Bates, Platinum’s composer-in-residence, juxtaposed with music by masters of Renaissance polyphony, including Lassus, Victoria and Purcell, all brought to life with expression and vigour.
Founded in 2005, Platinum Consort is a professional choir comprising former Cambridge choral scholars. Their early training in such a fine heritage of choral singing is evident in their vibrant, focused sound, extensive dynamic range, emotional depth, and sensitive attention to the text. Their voices float, soar, and whisper, while creating both an exquisite intimacy and an expansive grandeur, as the text demands.
The opening piece, a short Christus factus est by Felice Anerio, set the tone and atmosphere for the evening, transporting the audience from somewhere just north of the hubbub of King’s Cross station to a higher, more spiritual place through purity of sound and simplicity of presentation.
The two works by Richard Bates sat perfectly with the earlier pieces in their understated presentation and opening harmonic shadings, redolent of early Renaissance choral part-writing, before moving into more unusual tonal and harmonic territory, with delicious suspensions and crunchy dissonances. The title work, Bates’ In The Dark – a new setting of the Tudor poem You that have spent the silent night by George Gascoigne (1525-1577) – had an aching tenderness, the line “in sleep and quiet rest” sung so delicately, as if by a single voice. In his Tenebrae, the six movements are connected by a common theme, elaborated by a recurring solo soprano response, sung with graceful expressiveness by Zoë Brown. The audience was attentive and enraptured, and the absolute silence which followed before the applause was a true mark of our wonder and appreciation. We almost didn’t want to applaud for fear of breaking the spell.
The concert closed with Scottish composer and conductor James MacMillan’s monumental Miserere, a setting of Psalm 5, best known in the version by Allegri. In MacMillan’s setting, it is sombre and pitiful, sorrowful and spare, opening with a homophonic section for the tenors and basses. The music gains strength gradually, through an extended improvisatory passage and stunning plainchant, towards a glorious climax and the prospect of redemption. Undaunted by the virtuoso demands of the work, once again the purity of Platinum’s delivery, their scrupulous attention to detail, and immaculate intonation and articulation made this a performance of spine-tingling beauty and conviction. This was a stunning and memorable concert by some of the best young singers in London, under the direction of their dynamic and enthusiastic director.