Sine Nomine Singers

Singing beautiful and challenging music from the twelfth century to the present

Echoes through time

The second of our three concerts celebrating our 30th Anniversary year traced the 30 years since the Sine Nomine Singers was founded by Stephen Davies, by pairing each of six classic works with new ones by some of Britain’s finest female composers in this golden age of composition.

Each composition takes us forwards in 5-year intervals on the way from 1994 to 2024, leading us towards the very newest work by Anna Semple, commissioned by the Sine Nomine Singers specially for the evening.  Anna also joins us as our Mezzo Soprano soloist.

We open with Thomas Tallis’s timeless motet “O Sacrum Convivium”, with its rich Renaissance polyphony celebrating the sacred feast.  Complementing Tallis’s work is Roxanna Panufnik’s “Deus, Deus Meus,” again using the feast as religious symbolism but with lighter, intricate vocal lines and evocative harmonies, offering a contemporary perspective on the quest for connection with the divine.

Stanford’s choral miniature “The Blue Bird”, capturing the ethereal beauty of nature with melodic beauty and nuanced harmonies was inspired by a poem of Mary Coleridge.  In turn, Bingham’s work “The Drowned Lovers” reimagines this famous Stanford partsong and was written to flow directly into it, drawing on folk traditions to evoke the eerie atmosphere of a tragic love story.

Our next pair of works are inspired by metaphysical poets.  William Henry Harris’ “Bring Us, O Lord God”, set to the words of John Donne, was sung at the committal service of Queen Elizabeth II and exemplifies the grandeur and solemnity of the English choral tradition.  In “Vertue,” Judith Weir uses ethereal textures and otherworldly harmonies in her setting of George Herbert’s poems about Christian virtue.

Gustav Holst’s evocative setting of the “Nunc Dimittis” and Cecilia McDowall’s poignant reflection on mortality, “Standing as I do before God” both look death straight in the face and ultimately conquer it.  These compositions capture the sense of peace and fulfillment found in the ancient canticle and invite us to contemplate the journey towards spiritual fulfillment.

We next explore the evocative imagery of winter through the lens of music, with Claude Debussy’s “Hiver” from “Trois Chansons” setting the stage with its shifting textures and shimmering harmonies. Debussy’s delicate choral writing captures the serene beauty of the winter landscape.  Complementing Debussy’s impressionistic masterpiece is Joanna Marsh’s “In Winter’s House”.  Marsh’s composition transports us to a realm of frosty enchantment, where the season unfolds in ethereal beauty.

As well as being the soloist for our choral works, Anna Semple is singing two solo pieces, bringing together two trailblazing female composers from different epochs, with Hildegard von Bingen’s “O Virtus Sapientiae” standing as a testament to the visionary power of the medieval mystic. In “Che si può fare,” Barbara Strozzi, a pioneering figure of the Baroque era, offers a glimpse into the world of 17th-century Venice with her impassioned vocal writing and expressive lyricism.

We conclude with two contrasting biblical texts.  “Vox in Rama” by Anna Semple is a heart-rending lament in juxtaposition to the final, triumphant voice, Edward Naylor’s majestic and dramatic “Vox Dicentis”.

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