Review by Robin Greatorex

Stanford's Bluebird at St. Mary's Church, Dedham on 2nd October

On Tuesday evening, in the fifth of the Roman River Festival events, the Philharmonia Voices under the direction of Aidan Oliver drew on the choral treasures of Europe to give us a glimpse of heaven, evoking images of heaven and terror, angels and Christ in glory.

The singers made it work immaculately through the poetry and the music. Nothing could have better brought together both poetry and music, than the opening piece - Thomas Weelkes' Gloria in Excelsis Deo. There was something very special about the more contemplative pieces from the 16th century polyphonic tradition; beautiful and timeless meditations brought out the very best from this small ensemble.

The rendering of The Bluebird, featuring the solo soprano, Rebecca Hickey, was perfect. James Macmillan's setting of Christus Vincit required the singers to spread out around a packed audience - a beautiful modern setting of the words in the perfect context of St. Mary's Church.

For the listeners it was a wonderful experience, sold on the infectious enthusiasm of the conductor and the quality of the performance. A packed church on Tuesday night suggests that through music, people can reach out to something that cannot adequately be expressed in words.

If it were possible to surrender to an experience beyond words alone, this was it.

Robin Greatorex.