Millfield’s Camerata performs in Cambridge

In mid-October, all thirty-two members of Millfield’s premier chamber choir, Camerata, along with eight staff, set off for a weekend of singing around the college chapels of Cambridge University.

For many, this was their first time in the world-famous university city and, for others, was a chance to look around and explore not just a beautiful and cultural city, but the chance to visit a prospective university. As the group arrived into Cambridge on Saturday, there was chance for everyone to explore the city centre, sit down for a meal and prepare for the busy day ahead.

After everyone was well rested and now firmly in the mindset for the occasion, the group arrived at St. Catharine’s College for the first of our two services. All were immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of the college and, once inside the chapel, there was a chance to rehearse the music for our service of Choral Evensong with the Senior Organ Scholar of the College. After a short break, and at exactly 5pm, the first downbeat from Mr Cook heard the choir sing the opening introit ‘I Know My Soul Hath Power’ by Hubert Parry. The sound of the choir and organ united throughout the service was exhilarating, a truly wonderful and warming sound, particularly in Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, a stalwart in Cambridge College Chapel repertoire.

In quieter passages the choir handled the intimate atmosphere within the chapel, and when the music demanded a grander dynamism the choir potently delivered, filling the chapel with a rich, and shaped wall of sound. The Senior Organ Scholar at the College commented that the anthem, Parry’s My Soul There is a Country, was one of the best renditions he had ever heard. As the service ended and the choir processed outside, the congregation made their way across the college quadrant for a drinks reception, where members of the choir, Old Millfieldians, friends of the school, family members, and local musicians gathered to enjoy the company of those around them, especially in the beautiful setting of St. Catharine’s College, our Director of Music Matthew Cook’s former college.

The group proceeded to Christ’s College, walking through the famous gatehouse and the Quadrant. The morning service only allowed for a shortened rehearsal, so the group headed straight into Christ’s Chapel, where Millfield’s very own Chaplain, Rev. Philip Harbridge, was both student and chaplain. With a plethora of music to finesse, adjusting to the new acoustic, and to time with the college organist, the choir took to the mindset immediately. Featuring music from Macmillan, Britten, Bruckner and Parry, the choir grasped the new acoustic well and adjusted their sound for the slightly larger chapel and chamber-esque sounding organ of Christ’s College Chapel. The choir enjoyed brunch at the college at the end of the service, before an afternoon of punting along the famous Backs of Cambridge, passing many of the colleges including St John’s, King’s, Clare, and Trinity.