Review: the gemini consort

When a well-filled St. Peter’s Church greeted the singers of The Gemini Consort at the start of their Petersfield Musical Festival concert on Sunday night, the spirit of Ann Pinhey was wonderfully evident.

Ann contributed so much to the music of Petersfield and it was entirely appropriate that this concert, which she planned and would have directed, was held in the church that had hosted so many of her previous performances and was just a few yards from where she lived for the final stage of her long life.

In her place directing The Gemini Consort was Lucy Humphris, whose own career as a trumpeter, composer and conductor had been so encouraged by Ann, and from the opening of the most substantial work in the programme, Pergolesi – Stabat Mater, the fine tonal qualities of this small ensemble of upper-voice singers were evident.  

The gently interweaving polyphonic vocal lines were sensitively shaped by Lucy’s engaged direction, and for much of the time there was pleasing unity with Nicholas Gleed’s organ accompaniment – only in the faster sections were there some lapses in co-ordination and unity. It was absolutely in keeping with the nature of consort singing that the solos and duets were shared around the singers, including Lucy in another impressive revelation of her musical talents.

The second half of the programme encompassed a series of shorter pieces, with a strong and commendable emphasis on living composers. Particularly striking were Agnus Dei by the very talented young Canadian composer Sarah Quartel, Ola Gjeilo’s challenging Ave Generosa and – especially – the piece that concluded the programme Stars by Eriks Esenvalds.

The most persuasive singing from the Consort came in the quieter homophonic passages – in the sections of stronger dynamics, individual voices towards the top of the ensemble were sometimes a little over-prominent, but there was so much to enjoy in this concert of varied choral repertoire in an ideal acoustic and one could sense Ann Pinhey purring with pride, probably sharing in a glass of red wine at the back of the church in which she made so much fine music herself.

Jonathan Willcocks