Review by Clive Walkley

Kendal Midday Concert Club extended its season into April by arranging an additional concert in aid of Ukraine given by instrumentalists from The English Concert with the two sopranos Mhairi Lawson and Judy Louie Brown.

The two works on the programme were aptly chosen and poignant reminders of the violence being inflicted on Ukraine at the moment.

It was appropriate, therefore, that after an eloquent introduction by Doug Rathbone, Mayor of Kendal, we stood while the Ukranian National Anthem was played.

 The programme began with the six instrumentalists of The English Concert - two violins, viola, cello, organ and theorbo, playing a short piece by the sixteenth-century Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi, Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro.

The piece was written to be performed around Easter time in one of the many chapels in Italy with the name 'Santo Sepolcro'.

With a slow introduction followed by a lively allegro, it is a highly dramatic, intense piece representing Christ’s pain and suffering and the six players brought out all the inherent pathos in their performance.

The main work on the programme was Giovanni Pergolesi’s celebrated Stabat Mater, written just before the composer died at the age of 26 in 1736.

The piece is designed to be performed by two sopranos with an accompaniment for a small chamber ensemble.

With its plangent melodic lines and searing dissonances, it is a highly expressive setting of the 13th-century Latin hymn describing Christ’s suffering on the Cross and his mother’s overwhelming sorrow as she sees her son in torment.

Besides being an appropriate piece for performance around Easter time, for us, it served as a poignant reminder of what Ukrainians are suffering now.

The opening introduction, one of the highlights of the work, was beautifully played by the instrumentalists who clearly relished all the dissonances in the music, designed by the composer to suggest the pathos to come.

The two solo sopranos, each with their own individual voice colour, delivered the text with conviction, capturing the spirit of each verse of this long hymn. 

Judy Louie Brown as a mezzo-soprano produced a rich sound in the lower register of her voice and purity of tone in the upper register; Mhairi Lawson, on the higher part, tended to use more vibrato in her solos.

In the duet sections, they were well balanced and were unanimous in their approach to ornamentation.

Throughout the performance, they were sensitively accompanied by the stylish playing of The English Concert.

The unanimity of approach throughout and the technical accomplishments of vocalists and instrumentalists resulted in a moving performance.

It was good to see a large audience supporting this event which raised over £1,000 for Ukraine.