REVIEW: Nelson Consort, Anglican Cathedral, Portsmouth

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Music by living British composer Jonathan Dove again commanded attention in this quality Christmas concert by the city’s resident chamber choir.

The eight voices, most of them heard regularly in the cathedral, passed the test of dauntingly close harmonies in Dove’s setting of The Three Kings, a poem by crime novelist Dorothy L Sayers.

It swelled to ecstasy here before closing in a peace that reflected both the refined musicianship and verbal sensitivity achieved under Oliver Hancock’s direction.

This enterprising programme, also featuring such composers as Bax, MacMillan, Poulenc and Leighton, and traditional Canadian and Czech carols, showed the singers’ soloistic as well as blended quality.

Other personal favourites were the sense of human vulnerability achieved in Howells’s A Spotless Rose, the swing of Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, the stereo effects of In Dulce Jubilo, and the men’s dark harmonies in Away in a Manger.

And there was the joyous swell on the words ‘the Lord of all glory’ in Hush You, My Baby – and a Twelve Days of Christmas that was sheer fun.

Throughout, expressiveness and discipline were held in fine balance.