Richard Morrison - The Times, 20 January 2014 - "Eloquent singing and sumptuous beauty" Show Full Review
Richard Morrison - The Times, 17 May 2011 - "Impeccable intonation and blend" Show Full Review
Ian Burnside, BBC Radio 3's CD Review"Canticum gets the big thumbs up because of the polish and refinement of the singing" Show
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A CHRISTMAS CAROL Meridian Records CDE 84463 Recorded by John Shuttleworth Producer: Gary Skyrme
Iain Burnside, on BBC Radio 3's "CD Review", said:
"...Better by far to save your pennies for a Carol recording with some
real Xmas Spirit - a disc by the chamber choir Canticum and their conductor Mark Forkgen. I’m happy to give
it the big thumbs up not just because of the polish and refinement of the singing, but because all its
profits will go to a branch of the Samaritans."
"And surely even Ebeneezer Scrooge himself would be touched by something
in the course of these 24 generous tracks."
Dominic Maxwell - The Times, 19 June 2008 - "Canticum helped to make a performance that exceeded its source material." Show
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THE TIMES – CHELSEA FESTIVAL, ATOM HEART MOTHER Dominic Maxwell, 19 June 2008, 4 stars **** Atom Heart Mother at Cadogan Hall, SW1 Read on The Times Website
Rock meets classical, anyone? Anyone at all? Hello-o? Thirty-eight years
since Pink Floyd recorded Atom Heart Mother, a 27-minute mix of pop, brass, cello and choir, this acme of
prog rock retains a murky reputation. It gave the band their first No 1 album, boosted by its iconic cover
shot of a cow. But even the boys themselves have since prodded at the album’s carcass with disdain. “Atom
Heart Mother is a good case, I think, for being thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever
again,” the bassist Roger Waters said in the Eighties. “Absolute crap,” agreed the soft-spoken guitarist
David Gilmour a decade later.
Well, a chap can change his mind, can’t he? On Sunday Gilmour was the
star guest at the second of two concerts by Ron Geesin as part of this year’s Chelsea Festival. Geesin, the
Scottish composer who came up with the orchestral parts of Atom Heart Mother, provided an appealingly odd
first half. There were new pieces he had written for the Royal College of Music Brass Ensemble and for the
vocal ensemble Canticum; Geesin on the banjo with cellist Caroline Dale; Geesin on marimba, piano and banjo
and, oh yes, Geesin reading out some aphorisms. He’s a one-off, all right, even if he doesn’t half keep
reminding you about it.
But it was the second half we were waiting for, and it was a revelation.
Atom Heart Mother, as Geesin admitted, has its longueurs. But as Gilmour joined Mun Floyd, an Italian Pink
Floyd tribute band, to play this epic alongside the classicists, it began to feel less like an affably
overambitious period piece and more like a genuinely audacious and affecting piece of music. If Gilmour
felt at all dubious about a track he first recorded as a 24-year-old — too young to know that such a rich
mix of blues and brass and musique concrète is Not A Good Idea — it didn’t show in his playing. On form,
there is no more lyrical electric guitarist alive. When he played his slide guitar in particular, it felt
as if he was playing directly on the heartstrings. Behind him, the hairy boys of Mun Floyd played perfect
re-creations. The brass lacked a fraction of the original’s bluster, perhaps, but Dale and the 25-strong
choir helped to make a performance that exceeded its source material.
The emotional content emerged from this bold, not so say foolhardy, form
like never before. The result? A performance that made this combination of elements feel natural and vital.
A fabulous achievement.
Composer Hugh Wood and poet Geoffrey Hill are exact contemporaries - born
just days apart in 1932 - and close friends. Hill dedicated his most recent book of poetry to Wood, while Wood
has made choral settings of a sequence of poems from Hill's earlier collection, Tenebrae. The cycle was
completed in 2003, but remained unperformed until this concert, when the chamber choir Canticum with Kokoro,
the Bournemouth Symphony's new-music ensemble, conducted by Mark Forkgen, made the premiere of Tenebrae the
centrepiece of their programme celebrating Wood's 75th birthday.
As the title suggests, the mood of the sequence Wood chose - laced with
Christian imagery - was dark, introspective, often disappointed, and his choral versions are always keen to
let the words express themselves. The instrumental commentary was spare - two of the eight choruses were
entirely unaccompanied, while two solo settings, for baritone and tenor, were each combined with just a
single instrumental line. A duet for soprano and alto, the most sensuously delicate moment in the cycle, was
intertwined with flute and viola. Full chorus and the whole nine-piece ensemble only came together for the
final two poems, but even here everything was restrained, completing a cycle that never tried to be
simplistically illustrative, but left listeners to tease out what meaning they could from Hill's impacted
Alongside this wonderfully careful performance, and similarly well
prepared accounts of unaccompanied choral works by Jonathan Harvey and John Tavener, Forkgen conducted the
premiere of The Miraculous Mandolin, a short ensemble piece by a Wood pupil Stephen Pratt. There was also
Peter Maxwell Davies's Tenebrae Super Gesualdo, a sombre 1972 sequence of meditations on a motet, which
seemed the most perfectly judged melding of 17th- and 20th-century musics.
The evening changed my musical vistas forever. Don’t miss out!
Organists' Review, May 2000 - "Under the present director we hear on this recording singing of exquisite control and refinement" Show
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A HYMN TO THE VIRGIN Meridian Records CDE 84418 Recorded by John Shuttleworth Producer: Gary Skyrme
Organists' Review (May 2000) wrote:
"Well, here is another cracker of a recording. Another themed programme
and certainly not the first I have reviewed based on Marian texts, and what truly lovely music it all
is. Canticum is a mixed voice chamber choir founded in 1989, based at the Temple Church. Early directors
included Timothy Brown and Hilary Davan Wetton. Canticum sing with exquisite control and refinement, especially in the a cappella pieces. A high spot has to be the Litanies
of Poulenc where the choir’s expressive and at times impassioned singing is complemented by the organ
accompanying of Peter Barley. I was left wondering where this recording had taken place (information not
readily available on the sleeve), but certainly somewhere with a lively yet warm acoustic and a decent sized
instrument." [It was recorded at Temple Church]
"The Panufnik Song to the Virgin Mary is a substantial piece which was
commissioned for the Lake District Festival in 1964; what a hard opening for the sopranos - such a haunting
theme, which is then reworked and harmonised in an increasingly complex manner leading to a huge climax. This
piece alone is sure testimony to the abilities of this choir and its director. After this I was left a little
apprehensive at the thought of yet another recording of the Coll Reg, but I was not disappointed - the
performance which finishes the disc is magisterial in style - if perhaps a little lacking in urgency at the
start. A small criticism, I think of the recording as opposed to the choir, is that the sopranos’ higher
notes tend to sound just a little thin at times - and this was especially noticeable in the Gloria where
the voices split. Small criticism though of what is a fine disc, warmly recommended."
Mike Marsh - Bournemouth Echo, 16th May 2011 - "Canticum gave a sublime performance" Show Full Review
Canticum is one of those groups that make a composer’s life so
much happier! Not only is one guaranteed accurate and disciplined musicianship, but there is an
individual dedication from each member of the choir which results in highly intelligent interpretations
and committed performances. One of our outstanding ensembles – and with a real understanding of
Carol concert for Charitable Trust - 01 March 2010
Worshipful Company joins forces to raise £4,000 for the Cure Parkinson's Trust
The Worshipful Company of Actuaries has held its annual carol service
at St. Lawrence Jewry for many years, but last Christmas switched to
the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, with joint hosts the
Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards. St. Bartholomew is a
magnificent building, and is the oldest surviving church in the City of
London, dating from the year 1123.
Over 200 people attended the concert, mostly actuaries and their
guests. They were marvellously entertained by the Canticum Choir and
joined in heartily when invited. The choir sang a wide range of
seasonal songs, from traditional carols to Palestrina and Rutter, and
were truly inspirational.
After the concert, mince pies and wine were served. Tickets to the
concert were sold in aid of charity, with the additional generosity of
sponsors Barnett Waddingham, CMS Cameron McKenna, Lazard Asset
Management and SCOR, who covered a significant proportion of the costs
of holding the event. £4,000 will be paid to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust
via the Company of Actuaries Charitable Trust.
The conductor Mark Forkgen delivered a passionate performance, leading
the period music specialists: Counterpoint to deliver a very moving account of Haydn’s monumental score. Gone
are the days of 120 instrumentalists hammering the life out of this work, instead we have near reverential
playing and musical introspection. This is equally true of the respected chamber choir: Canticum, who
delivered their mighty choruses, especially “The heavens are telling the glory of God” with fervent passion.
Anthony Lias, Opera Britannia commenting on the performance of Haydn’s The
Creation, at the closing concert of the 2009 Chichester Festival
Canticum’s contribution to the Chelsea Festival’s recent re-creation of
Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother was, quite simply, superb. The piece is by no means conventional and requires
a great deal of flexibility from its vocal forces, but Canticum delivered on every level. Exceptionally fine,
strong singing and very convincing ‘extended’ vocal techniques.
It was quite an occasion. On Saturday 4 August, the London choir
Canticum came to Coutances Cathedral for an exceptional concert. The performance was organised by
Amicale Culturelle Européenne, which promotes cultural relations between French and English residents, as
well as those of other nationalities, living in the Manche area. The concerts they organise are generally
held in civic venues or sites of major cultural importance and therefore, after having sung in the Abbey
of Cerisy-la-Foret and the Sainte-Mere-Église Church, the British group took over Notre-Dame on 4th August.
Conducted by Mark Forkgen, the choir performed extracts of works by
Bach, Monteverdi, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Brahms, Britten and Messiaen amongst others, in this technically
brilliant and sensitively presented concert.
In the sixteen years since its formation, Canticum has built up a
reputation as one of the best chamber choirs in Great Britain. Renowned for its interpretation of
contemporary music, it has also taken its domestic success abroad. The choir has toured several times
in Italy, singing in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
For its Coutances appearance, Canticum benefited from logistical help
from the Friends of the Cathedral.