Pilgrimage songs evoke earthy passion

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Club Scene with Sam Cherry

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Chaucer told us in The Canterbury Tales that pilgrimages do not have to be po-faced, and the Renaissance Choir’s concert entitled Music of the Spanish Pilgrims reinforced the point.

True, the bulk of the programme was devoted to deeply spiritual works by such masters as Victoria and Guerrero, and these were impressively sung by the unaccompanied choir directed by Peter Gambie.

But similar purity of sound, matched by passionate feeling generated through subtle contrasts of tone-colours and dynamics, were also brought to bear on what Mr Gambie described as the folk music of the era.

There was an earthiness in the more rumbustious items that 12th century pilgrims sang (or might have sung) on the road to the cathedral of Santiago da Compostela.

Not even Victoria’s sublime Agnus Dei and Ave Maria surpassed the innocent freshness of another setting of the latter text, by one Javier Busto.

The choir’s corporate discipline is outstanding but it has fine individual voices, too, as one soloist proved in an item from the same section.

The concert will be repeated in Chichester Cathedral this Saturday (7.30pm) in aid of the Mayor’s Appeal, and deserves support on both counts.