Wineke review: Queen’s choir sings in Madison

Wineke review: Queen’s choir sings in Madison

The Choir of Westminster Abbey came to Madison Friday to sing for a capacity audience at the Overture Center and charmed the entire hall.

It is a bit hard to know how to describe the choir of some 35 men and boys — about two-thirds boys.

When Maestro John DeMain steps up to the podium of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, one assumes he will hear great music. The conductor and orchestra have worked together for more than 20 years. They know what they’re doing.

In this case, the Westminster Abbey Choir regularly sings for the Queen of England. You just take it for granted they know how to carry a tune.

And they do. They sing beautifully. But there’s a history there that transcends the boys. Several of the works they sang carried notations explaining that the composer was a former organist for Westminster Abbey in the 17th century.

Henry Purcell, for example, was organist at the Abbey from 1679 to 1695.

Which, of course, is the thing that makes this choir so special. The Choir of Westminster Abbey has been in existence for 1,000 years or so. The present building in which it sings traces its history to King Henry III in 1245.

So, we just don’t hear a choir like that too often in Madison, but Madison is the second stop of the choir’s current tour. It began the tour at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and is now heading for Texas.

Their visit here is as part of the annual Overture Organ Concert Series and Daniel Cook, Sub-Organist of Westminster Abbey, put the huge Overture Organ through its paces, especially in his rendition of C.V. Stanford’s “Postlude in D minor,” which set the concert hall rumbling and might well have set the entire building rumbling.

So, it was a great evening. Sooner or later, there’s going to be another wedding or another burial of someone famous at Westminster Abbey and we’ll see these kids, or at least Master of Choristers James O’Donnell and some new group of kids, singing for the queen and we’ll think, “I know those kids.”

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