Event review: Lent lunchtime concert at Croydon minster, Friday 7th April

By - Friday 28th April, 2017

A slice of transcendent beauty in your lunch hour

Photo by Randall Murrow, used with permission.

A series of Lent lunchtime concerts at Croydon Minster began on Friday 3rd March, and this was the last of them. With a running time of just forty minutes, each was designed to be fitted into a lunch hour (to which end the minster website even invited attendees to bring sandwiches). Slipping a slice of transcendent beauty into a working day is a top idea.

But does Lent sell? The Croydon Guardian reported back in March that this series of concerts ‘did not set out to be downbeat’ – which means that the minster team thought it might be a bit off-putting. Is that right? Attendance was good; however, the age profile was silver. For those familiar with it all from childhood, it’s hard to know how accessible Lent now feels to the people of diverse, modern Croydon.

Repentance should be widely promoted

Lent is the state religion’s penitential season, traditionally a time of reflection and self-discipline in personal behaviour, particularly around diet: hence the custom of kicking one’s lazy self-indulgent ways into touch by ‘giving things up for Lent’. As initiatives such as the ‘March de-chox’ (do without sweeties for four whole weeks!) and ‘Veganuary’ (a month without any animal products is a tougher challenge altogether) strive to bring back self-control, and the NHS creaks under our collective inability to stop eating, Lent is a significant cultural loss.

Repentance for greed of all kinds should be promoted: cut carbs, and think about the consequences of grabbing whatever you want on those who don’t have as much. The same goes for Ramadan too, “intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity”. Far from being off-putting, such space to think seriously is welcome.

Two sopranos was a real treat

And judging from this one, these concerts to mark the process of Lent were very lovely indeed. The minster had chosen a mixture of moods, from a raw, hard-as-nails rendition of Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’, about Mary the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross, one of the most downbeat images imaginable (“what man would not weep if he saw the mother of Christ in such torment?”) to Vivaldi’s lightly rippling ‘Laudamus Te’ (a hymn to God the father) and Arne’s ‘Glitt’ring Sun’, from The Morning. With Tom Little on both organ and piano, solos from singers Pamela Hall and Victoria Wood and plenty of double soprano, it turned out to be forty minutes of thoughtful pleasure.

Both Pamela Hall and Victoria Winter are, amongst other musical accomplishments, members of the minster’s fine choir. I heard them together most recently in January this year at the beautiful and moving commemoration of the destruction of Croydon Minster by fire in 1867. There’s another chance to hear this superb new work by Martin Howe this coming June as part of the Croydon Heritage Festival 2017; it’s one not to be missed.

It’s hard to think of anything better to do with a lunch hour in Croydon than spend it in the restful beauty of the minster listening to lovely music. As a friend commented afterwards: “two sopranos was a real treat”.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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