To mark the 202nd birthday of AWN Pugin, the celebrated architect of the Gothic revival in the 19th century who was born on 1 March 1812, the Friends of St. Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate organised a series of three concerts to take place during late February and March 2014. The stirring finale came on Saturday 15 March with the Thames Chamber Choir playing to a full and appreciative audience.
After a solemn entrance, they sang a marvellous plainsong Gloria, which was entirely appropriate for the magnificent setting of Pugin’s church and which set the mood for the whole evening. The first half opened with O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria and afterwards featured works by Palestrina, Lotti, J.S. Bach, Taverner and Gabrielli. It closed with a memorable musical setting of I give thee thanks O Lord, based on Psalm 138 and set to music by Andrew Campling, the choir’s musical director.
The interval itself provided further example of the choir’s versatility. Having discovered that it was Fr. Marcus Holden’s birthday, he was treated by the choir to a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ which was doubtless more in tune than any previous version he had ever heard.
The second half opened with three motets by Anton Bruckner, followed by a beautiful musical setting of The Spirit of the Lord from Isaiah, again written by Andrew Campling. Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen (Seven Magnificat Antiphons) by Arvo Part followed. Almighty Father by Leonard Bernstein came after this, a work which Jacqueline Kennedy had asked him to compose for the opening in 1971 of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. The evening closed, as it had started, with O Magnum Mysterium, this time written by Morten Lauridsen, a Grammy nominee of 1998, and this setting is now one of his most-performed works. The audience left in uplifted mood.
The Thames Chamber Choir is a vibrant group of about twenty singers, who have performed together since 1999. The choir’s repertoire is mainly drawn from Renaissance and twentieth century a cappella music, and they occasionally collaborate with orchestras and other artists for special projects.
They can be followed on Twitter @TCCLondon.