Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Choirs set the tone for peace

The Peacemakers

Phoenix Singers/Quay Voices/OneSound

Birmingham Town Hall


THE Peacemakers was Karl Jenkin's sequel, 12 years on, to The Armed Man, his mass for peace which was written for the millennium and a hope of a new world order.

Twelve years on and little has changed with conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and on and on – 41 armed conflicts in all around the world.

Jenkins took words by men and women of peace and set them to music which soars and haunts in equal measure with a mix of jazz, bringing in a soprano saxophone and shades of ethnic music from Tibetan temple bells to the bodhrán, the Irish drum and the penny whistle (a penny? I wish) or to give it is Sunday best name, a flageolet, along with primitive drum rhythms which are perhaps the most emotive music of all, built into the human DNA.

For both the OneSound orchestra and choir the changes in tempo and style along with the structure of the 17 movements, with no set verse or chorus, is a challenge but it was one the three choirs and young orchestra met magnificently.

Musical director of all three is Matt Beckingham who has conducts in a style encouraging his performers to shine and they didn't let him down.

Quay Voices, who were impressive in heir solo, Sure on the Shining Night, are one of the leading youth choirs in the country, hailing from Gateshead, while OneSound are the leading Christian youth choir and orchestra. Their solo, Blessed Assurance, was well executed but suffered from the bane of many youth choirs in lacking bass and depth – a characteristic which comes with age and maturity – or smoking 40 Capstan Full Strength a day.

OneSound also supplied the organist taking on the Town Hall's stunning instrument with its four manuals and 6,000 pipes, all mastered and tamed by Catherine Boxall.

Phoenix Singers are well known in the West Midlands, and beyond, and have raised £20,000 for charity over the past ten years and their solo Lead Kindly Light set the tone for the evening.

After a lively opening with Sing, the Diamond Jubilee anthem from Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber there were a couple of wobbles early in the evening as the three choirs introduced themselves but that was merely a warm up, a loosener for the main event and from the opening Blessed are the Peacemakers choirs and fine orchestra did Jenkin's emotive work justice.

The work takes words from the Bible and Koran, and from figures including the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Shelley, St Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr and the remarkable diary of Anne Frank.

The Peacemakers does not have one theme, tune or song anyone would be humming on the way home, yet the music was infectious, with feet tapping along to the likes of the jazzy, bluesy He Had a Dream elegy for Martin Luther King Jnr or the insistent drumming and whistle of Healing Light, a Celtic Prayer.

We also had two fine soloists, both sopranos from Quay Voices with Molly Toolan-Kerr singing Terry Waite's beautifully haunting Meditation: Peace is . . .

Sarah Dover sand The Dove, a lyrical song by Jenkins' wife Carol Barratt for their granddaughter Astrid May.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Coun. Mike Leddy and his wife Pauline attended the concert which was to raise funds for The Foundation for Conductive Education.

The concert, compered by Andy Knowles, ended with an enthusiastic ovation rewarded with an encore to end a performance well deserving of a larger audience.

Roger Clarke 

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