Sine Nomine Singers are celebrating 15 years since their conception. I for one welcome more choirs in Cardiff. After all, the land of song should always encourage new groups of singers.
This varied programme proved their talents as a chorus. Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to Saint Cecilia is a sprite and refreshing Ode to the patron saint of music, with W. H. Auden’s course verse as the wording (their final collaboration). Britten was in fact born on St Cecilia’s Day and he channels a near dense handling of each type of singer group, with some lovely, if fleeting solos as well. A selection of motets from centuries past were equally rousing, music by Orlando Gibbons, Tomás de Victoria and Christopher Tye highlighting 16th century choral writing.
St Teilo’s Chamber Organ made a welcome return, as it turns heads as an excitable reclaiming of a stellar musical instrument back to Wales. It’s time spent at Britten’s Snape Maltings is now a main reference point for the organ and is now residing in Cardiff thanks to the work of its maker Peter Hindmarsh and those involved with this church. In a delightful solo, Ben Heneghan offered Haydn’s Eight Pieces for Musical Clocks. This pithy selection (the composer wrote over thirty pieces for this gadget) never cease in their charm and this proud little organ substitutes a musical clock very well. This is the definition of “light music”, but their mannerisms are hard to resist, thanks to the cheery playing Heneghan.
More motes from the 19th century saw the likes of Rheinberger, Stanford, Wesley and Tchaikovsky. Here, lavish declarations are made harmonies become complex as the choir comes into it’s own. We’ll not judge the few coughs in the choir and one singer having to leave the space to deal with her own attack on her throat. Some times the blend of the voices did not always match up, yet I can feel the energy and passion these singers exude, which is of course commendable. The Tchaikovsky did stand out as very balanced and listenable.
Post Haydn, the highlight of the evening were two contemporary songs: Let My Love Be Heard by Jake Runestad and O Salutais Hostia by Ēriks Ešenvalds. American composer Runestad wrote this as a memorial to whose who perished in the Paris terrorist attacks back in 2016. This is undeniably a moving encounter, though the humming at the start could have framed the work well by also returning at the very end in their hushed subtleties. The Latvian Ešenvalds has written a superb work for two sopranos and choir. Having a mood similar to Moriconi’s The Mission and the requiem style of writing, this was an exquisite exercise in sincerity and grace, wonderful sung by both modest soloists as well.
A return to Baroque anthems from Pitoni, Purcell and Scarlatti helped cleanse the palette and made for an evocative end to the concert. The latter two composers work seemed to meld wonderful into each other, due to the desire for no applause during each set. The religious, Latin refrains are what made these three pieces sensible and equally polished in their delivery by the singers.
Here’s to 15 more years!