On Sunday last I enjoyed a most pleasurable evening in the company of one of our premiere local chamber choirs here in Milton Keynes: Polymnia. This is only the second time I have heard them. I don’t understand why this should be, so I enquired whether it was a newish choir and learned it was started in 2006. So if you haven’t heard them either, then we’ve all been missing out.
As a singer myself, I am particularly partial to part-songs. Not only the ones I have sung myself in choirs or folk clubs, but also new ones, of course. It was the songs new to me which I found particularly appealing on this occasion, specifically Eric Whitacre’s ‘Seal Lullaby’ (which was apparently composed for a cartoon film which somehow morphed into Kung Fu Panda, leaving the song without a raison d’être) and is a mother seal crooning to her pup as they float on a benevolent sea under the eye of the moon: deceptively simple! Even more delicious – and the kind of scary-to-do number that is popular in competitions like ‘Choir of the Year’ – was John Hearne’s ‘The Seagull’: the soloist (Anna Berry) is supported by the choir singing the sounds of the sea and the creatures who live in, on and above it. Magnificent. Other delights included, perhaps inevitably, George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ (including a lovely solo from Kylie Turney); also Vaughan Williams’ ‘Three Shakespeare Songs’ which I’ve certainly never heard done better live; a clever setting by John Rutter of the two poems ‘Come live with me and be my love’ by Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe, showing the former as a cynical disavowal of the romantic (not to say soppy!) former; a glorious bit of gospel arranged by John Byron, ‘Down in the river to pray’ (Anna Berry carried this along too – what a good voice she has for this sort of material). Oh, how I wanted to join in. Oh, how my companion dug me in the ribs … ; Charles Stanford’s ‘The bluebird’ was a tiny drop of vibrant stillness in the lovely acoustic of Stony Stratford’s St Giles church. The solo this time was delightfully delivered by Rachel Maloy; and Arthur Sullivan’s super-romantic ‘The long day closes’. These were just my personal favourites from a programme of very varied goodies which also contained Elgar, Granados, the gloriously named Z Randall Stroope and two pieces for solo piano.
Their next concert is in November, when they will return to their home at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone in Milton Keynes city centre. Some of the material to come in that concert was mentioned in this programme for this one. More lusciousness! Polymnia is a meeting of talented singers interested in meeting challenges with aplomb, with a first class, creative Musical Director (John Byron). They are obviously a very good fit for each other. I shall do my level best not to miss any more of their concerts.