Carolus Rex

Superb. One word which, as I see it, accurately describes the concert given by Carolus Rex on March 13, 2008, at St. John's Church, Greenhill.   Having had the pleasure of first hearing this excellent group perform in Harrow at Christmas 2007, I was very much looking forward to hearing them again on their return to this venue for their Easter concert.   The group's four performers were Felicity Hayward (soprano), Sophia Vaughan (alto), Robert Smith (tenor), and Edwin Pitt Mansfield (bass).   Carolus Rex started the first half of the concert with a goosepimple-inducing performance of "Weep, O mine eyes" by John Bennet (c. 1575-1614), and continued with works by Tchaikovsky, Rubbra, Gasparini and Mozart.   Their singing was impeccable, most of it done a cappella (without accompaniment). Their tuning was incredibly accurate, and the quality of each of their voices, both on their own and in harmony with each other, left us all mesmerised as we listened to them.   Sophia Vaughan displayed a wonderfully sensitive voice in her Rubbra solo, while Edwin Pitt Mansfield's fine Mozart Kantate solo was accompanied at the piano by the group's excellent tenor, Robert Smith, who displayed great versatility in so doing.    The second half brought us works by Parry (a setting of the "Crossing the Bar" poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson), as well as works by Mozart, Duruflé, J.S. Bach, and Pitoni.   Mozart's Exultate Jubilate, written when he was just seventeen, is well-known for its tricky coloratura writing. Not a problem for Felicity Hayward, the soloist in the work, who negotiated the difficult technical passages with calm expertise and wonderful musicality.   The final solo of the recital belonged to Robert Smith, who, in addition to some superb singing, and his piano accompaniment performance mentioned earlier, now sat down at the organ to play the Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 by J.S. Bach. His was a performance marked by great clarity in the notes and marvellous musicality, expertly handling the different sounds and nuances the organ at his disposition had to offer. I was left particularly impressed by this performer's incredible versatility ... in one concert, he performed as a tenor, a pianist and an organist - well done indeed.   Carolus Rex have been a revelation in both their recent performances here in Harrow ... I wish them every success, particularly so with their just-recorded new album of choral music, which will be available to buy from the month of May onwards.
Vlad Bourceanu
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