8) Across the 1790s, when he was most fully preoccupied by Samson Agonistes, Blake was engaged in redefining what counts as an "action," complicating the relationship between strength and weakness, activity and passivity, in a way he learned from Milton and especially from Milton's Samson, whom a late semichorus in Samson Agonistes describes as "vigorous most / When most unactive deem'd" (1704-5).
Because Samson is in fact "eyeless," the open eye Blake features so prominently recalls a semichorus in Samson Agonistes: "With inward eyes illuminated / His fierie vertue rouz'd / From under ashes into sudden flame" (1690-92).
Baal, we cry to thee was disappointingly underpowered, and there was a dodgy opening to the lovely He watching over Israel (logistics to blame, with the Angelic semichorus
moving back to their places and masking the beat).
But most clearly it alludes to the second semichorus
in Act II, scene 2 of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, which tells of the mutually sustaining song of the 'voluptuous nightingales' (l.
Phillips' 24 singers achieved almost superhuman levels of tonal richness and breath control in Tavener's gruellingly sustained vocal lines - basses frequently anchored on bottom Es and Ds, semichorus
sopranos hitched up to top Cs - that showed no strain and were consistently and awesomely beautiful.
A chorus singing out of its socks, a semichorus
(Christopher Hand's Beaumaris Singers) which responded with the utmost delicacy to Elgar's celestial demands, the Chandos Symphony Orchestra inspired even by its own exacting standards, and three soloists who sang with the utmost commitment and communication.
Choral diction is fabulous, not least from men divided into an exposed six-part semichorus
, and the climactic Chorus Mysticus (that mighty organ again
Holst's wonderfully visionary Hymn of Jesus drew a bravely projected contribution from the choir, with a properly ethereal semichorus
, and a willing response from the orchestra to the work's unique style and textures.
He's also very fortunate in having the combined vocal forces of the Huddersfield Choral Society and Leeds Philharmonic Chorus who, with baritone soloist Christopher Purves and the chamber choir Laudibus as semichorus
, sing their hearts out and make a thrilling noise.
Allied to this was the contribution of the splendid CBS Chorus, diction as crystalclear as ever, tone firm and sturdy, and with a compact semichorus
capable of disembodied delicacy.
There are many such passages where the composer has relied upon speech-like delivery and chanting on one note (a tribute to the semichorus
Litany in Gerontius?
The BFCS was complemented by the supple semichorus
of South Derbyshire's Cantabile.