Not many choral composers could upstage Spanish Renaissance master Tomas Luis de Victoria - but Herbert Howells, not the most widely celebrated of 20th century English masters, just about did it here.
Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing, his lament for his own son as well as for assassinated American president John F Kennedy, cut to the soul in its pungent brevity, subtle use of individual voices, controlled crescendo and immediate diminuendo, and the final soft declaration of the title words.
This was a typically bold piece of programming by Oliver Hancock, sub-organist at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral and founder and director of the Nelson Consort.
But Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday provided the evening’s main substance, and here the unaccompanied choir of soloists sang not only with the passion due in Spanish music but with purity of tone – most strikingly in the section where Christ foresees his own betrayal.
A superb choir of soloists.