"My small claim to fame is having sung solos in all four parts in the choir - bass, tenor, alto and (once) soprano, when the person meant to sing the soprano line in the semichorus
of Britten's Hymn to the Virgin didn't turn up for the performance!" Tristan Stubbs has been a member of Birmingham Bach Choir only since the beginning of this year, and he tells me his story.
(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).
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.
193 (where Nikias is supported by the semichorus
hostile to the abominable Marikas-Hyperbolos); Telekleides fr.
The device of using two or three boys on a solo part--a semichorus
, in effect--has always seemed to me an admission that the balance between boys and adult men is problematic.
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).
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!) crowns this performance with glory.
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.