Voce's Passiontide season 2013 is a cracker: on 17 March, we perform MacMillan's Seven Last Words From The Cross and Tallis' Lamentations alongside a piece by a relatively new young composer, Ēriks Ešenvalds.
On Suzi's orders, the entire choir had downloaded and was listening to Polyphony's fantastic recording of Ešenvalds' Passion and Resurrection in the run up to rehearsals for the concert. Hardly a chore: it's a beautiful piece, and the lush choral textures, haunting solo soprano line, and delicate yet increasingly brutal murmurings of a string orchestra had sent shivers up our collective spine.
Imagine our excitement when, in January, we got the call: Ēriks Ešenvalds himself would be coming to workshop the piece with us! Originally from Latvia but currently based in Cambridge as composer-in-residence at Trinity College, Ēriks was free on 4 February and struggled through wind and rain to join Voce at our rehearsal in Pimlico.
The choir had already warmed up and were working on one of the trickier passages when Ēriks arrived. We fell silent - after all, it's not every day you find yourself singing a piece in the presence of its composer. But Ēriks was an enthusiastic and inspirational coach and worked closely with Suzi, the choir, semichorus and soloists to help us achieve his vision of the work.
We gained an unprecedented insight into the composition and context of the piece - how, for example, the soprano solo had originally been written with a specific singer in mind, a woman with a relatively untrained but effortlessly beautiful voice. Ēriks encouraged us to "Go for it, open up, don't hold back!" - usually a red rag to a bull where the Voce alto section is concerned, but it helped the whole choir achieve the open, natural effect he wanted.
The 90 minute workshop flew by. It was a thoroughly inspirational experience and we were profoundly grateful for the opportunity to benefit from Ēriks' unique compositorial insight.
And the best part? Ēriks has just agreed to write a piece for Voce's 2014 season. We can't WAIT.
Voce and the Voce Chamber Orchestra perform Ešenvalds, Macmillan and Tallis at 19.30 on Sunday 17 March at London's Grosvenor Chapel. Tickets are available online (with advance purchase discount) or at full price OTD (£15/12).