Sheffield-based Music in the Round are the leading promoters of chamber music in the UK outside of London. This evening’s performance is in the unusual venue of Sheffield Cathedral, which turns out to be an inspired choice.
Stile Antico are a double Grammy-nominated early music voice ensemble, whose last album, Song of Songs, topped the US classical chart. Tonight they are performing songs from their new record, Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart, which is a collection of Tudor and Jacobean music written for private devotion. There is no conductor, they orchestrate and perform through a collective creative process.
As their name suggest, Music in the Round have done a wee re-shuffle, and as I walk in I find a make-shift stage surrounded by pews in the centre of the cathedral. More of an oval than a circle, Stile Antico combine performing as a whole with breaking into smaller groups, continuously moving around between songs, which keeps the evening fresh. Short explanations and readings are interspersed sparingly, which add historical context and an extra dimension to the evening.
The cathedral is deathly quiet throughout the performance, with the audience held spellbound as the voices soar and reverberate around its ancient walls. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the ghosts of an orchestra cavorting around the hallowed stones.
The device of using an oval allows the music to flow up and down making a sound that belies their number. They finish to a long ovation, which is richly deserved after a wonderfully relaxing evening of beautiful song. Ironically, the collection of songs, albeit written for private performance, work marvellously in the ecclesiastical surrounds of Sheffield Cathedral.
The current season of concerts hosted by Music in the Round is continuing, and a new season begins in May. For more information, visit their website, http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/mitr_whats_on.php