Spring 2024 Karl Jenkins Requiem

Spring 2024 - 23 March 2024 - review

Karl Jenkins Requiem
Queen Anne's School, Caversham

Review by 
Terry Grourk, Henley Standard

Sensational teenage harpist steals show on joyous, exciting evening

Sir Karl Jenkins is one of the world’s most performed living composers.  The evening’s concert, including his Requiem, was held at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, beginning with the beautiful Allegretto from Palladio, featuring the vibrant warm strings of the orchestra, led by John Hounam.

Next South Chiltern Choral Society, directed by Helen Bilkey and accompanied by Ian Westley on piano, sang Giulio Caccini’s evocative Ave Maria, arranged by the choir’s late founder, Gwyn Arch.

What happened next was simply astonishing as 15-year-old Olivia Clark entranced both the audience and choir with two solo pieces on the harp, first with Jacques Ibert’s humorous Scherzetto and later with Marcel Tournier’s Au Matin, played with increasing intensity, symbolising the growing warmth and energy from the morning sun’s rays.  She played the harp with a confidence and expert technique that belied her youth and received tumultuous applause from the audience and choir.

The choir excelled in performing Franz Schubert’s The Lord is my Shepherd with its gentle melodies and Mozart’s ethereal Ave Verum Corpus to end the first half. The second half comprised Jenkins’s Requiem with its 13 movements.  Bilkey explained that the composition was a deeply moving and contemplative choral work, pushing the boundaries of the choir with its combination of traditional Latin text and Japanese “haiku” poems.  On several occasions, the choir used their voices as percussion sounds to pronounced effect, underlying Jenkins’s eclectic and innovative approach.  Crashing cymbals and cascading water sounds enhanced this fusion of Oriental and European music.

Requiem ended with the choir singing the traditional Agnus Dei Farewell, accompanied by the haunting sounds of the flute, followed by a most impressive performance from every member of the choir and orchestra, including the harp and pizzicato strings, culminating in a truly dramatic crescendo with In

Bilkey praised the choir and orchestra, singling out soloists Victoria Alexander and Mollie Skiel, orchestra leader John Hounam and harpist Olivia.  Olivia’s mother and younger brother were also on stage playing a range of percussion instruments in what was an exciting and joyous evening.

Terry Grourk