The tradition of English choral singing is very rich. One expects to hear clear bell like tones of boy trebles. The harmonies of Tudor England reign in the motets and anthems. One even expects a bit of Latin. We were treated to a good measure of this tradition during Week 2 of the 82ndCarmel Bach Festival. The Carmel Mission Basilica opened its doors once more to share their wonderful space. The acoustics came alive with singing from The Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School on Friday, July 26, 2019. The 40 young boys, ages 7 – 18, gave us a taste of Sacred Treasures From Spain and England. Directed by Charles Cole, the musicians are traveling for 10 days in California, and Utah. We are so lucky The Carmel Bach Festival partnered with them to bring us this concert.
Part I of the program focused on sacred music from Spain. To begin, the choir sang a setting of the Sanctus found in a manuscript located in the museum at the Carmel Mission Basilica. Composed in the 18thcentury by Fr. Esteban Tapis, OFM it has been transcribed using the Gregorian tradition. Next, we listened to Tomas Luis de Victoria, Guerrero, de Morales and Juan Esquivel. No amplification was necessary for the choir. The air rang with the pleasant voices filling the church up to the tall ceiling. Several singers remarked that they have attempted some of the pieces, but did not create such a glorious sound.
For the second part of the program, attention was turned to Sacred Treasures of England. We were transported back to the 16thcentury. The harmonies written down by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis and Peter Philips drifted out into the garden. All of the music we heard during this concert was sung in Latin. Most are written for use in Mass, or as prayers. From the simple 4 part motets to the complex double choir, 8 part works, the Schola faithfully executed the directing of Charles Cole. All the music was sung acapella. As the last note died away, the audience seemed to not want to break the spell. They did persuade the choir to sing an encore of a lovely motet lamenting of a crying heart. I look forward to The Carmel Bach Festival bringing more groups to share with us.