Somerset’s best-loved Coffee Concert series

 The Marion Consort take Somerset by storm A near capacity audience dragged themselves out of bed and braved the huff and puff of the steep climb to Frome’s premier chamber music venue, Rook Lane Chapel, on Sunday 16th January to enjoy the opener in Somerset’s best-loved Coffee Concert series.   Hailing from Oxford and London, the six members of the Marian Consort were the first purely vocal group to be presented at a Rook Lane Coffee Concert since the inception of this series eight years ago. Singing one voice to a part, the members of the Marian Consort aim for a high degree of textual clarity.   While in rehearsal they found the acoustic of the restored chapel somewhat ‘drier’ than the lofty churches that they usually inhabit, the singers quickly got the measure of Rook Lane’s special qualities and characteristics and were able to adjust their voices accordingly.   The four male voices (counter-tenor, tenor, baritone and bass) are augmented in this group by two sopranos singing separate lines.   The sopranos in fact take parts that would originally have been sung by boy trebles. Aside from the practical difficulties of working with children, Rory McCleery, who leads the Marian Consort, feels that using female voices gives an ideal balance and a reliability of pitch. The Marion Consort’s programme on Sunday morning, entitled ‘Around the World in Sixty Minutes’, took the audience on a tour of Renaissance Europe, just occasionally touching on the later Baroque period.   Beginning and ending in Catholic Spain, the audience was transported via France to the Protestant Low Countries, Germany and England, before a brief Italian sojourn. Much of the music selected for this programme was devotional, as would be expected of this period and from a group named for Mary, mother of Christ.   Pieces by Morales, Clemens, and Monteverdi were particularly uplifting. However, not all of the music sung by the Marian Consort is sacred. The audience were treated to a particularly lively rendition of Gabrieli’s ‘Chichi lichi curucuru’, based on an earthy Neapolitan folk tune and featuring in its story some colourful characters including a cuckold and a crowing cockerel. After sustained and rapturous applause, the singers concluded their recital with a sublime encore leaving the audience both in awe and deeply appreciative. Audience and performers alike beamed with delight and all were left with a joyous afterglow that is rare indeed.   It was the precision of the singing and the exuberance of the presentation that was remarkable about this performance.   The experience was so enjoyable that one out of every eight of the audience bought a copy of the Marian Consort’s first CD, freshly minted this very week! This was truly a morning to remember.  The next Coffee Concert at Rook Lane Chapel features guitarist Morgan Szymanski paired with cellist Gemma Rosefield who last performed at Rook Lane in 2008 to great acclaim.   Doors open at 10.30am for coffee, Sunday newspapers and chat, with the music starting at 11.30am running for one hour without an interval. While they last tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children will be available on the door.