Intermezzo call themselves Oxford’s vacation choir. Although there are over a hundred choirs in the Oxford area, most of them only operate during term time so Andrew Ker founded Intermezzo in 2012 to fill that holiday gap. They number some forty members and their stated focus is on beautiful music, mainly modern. This was their sixth concert.
It was advertised as having a Spanish connection, but in fact the Spanish/South American influence only appeared in the second half. The first half was largely eastern European in flavour, starting with two lovely pieces by the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miskinis. The first, Angelis Suis Deus (written to thank the conductor Stephen Layton for introducing his music to the UK) and sung by the whole choir, was a haunting piece with beautiful harmonies. His second piece, Cantate Domino, sung by men only, started equally mysteriously but finished on a joyful note. Then followed a piece by the only English composer in the first half, Nolo Mortem Peccatoris by Rob Waters from Gloucester Cathedral, a gentle lyrical composition sung by a small, mixed section of the choir. Three east European compositions followed, Kiida, mu Hing, Issandat! by Estonian Cyrillus Kreek, Ave Maria III by Latvian Rihards Dubra and Tykus Tykus by Lithuanian Vaclovas Augustinas. The soaring notes of Kiida, mu Hing, Issanda!t (including a stunning soprano part) were followed by the more traditional harmonious Ave Maria III. Tykus Tykus was a tour de force, sung at a galloping pace. This is an incredibly complex reworking of a Lithuanian folk song, particularly for the sopranos. Humorous too, as we hear the sounds of horses galloping away at the end.
The second half was dominated by Spanish and South American composers: Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Congratulamini mihi with its beautiful harmonies and Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco’s joyful A Este Sol Peregrino, this latter accompanied by the guitars of the Vickers Bovey Guitar Duo. Julian Vickers and Daniel Bovey then played Astor Piazzolla’s delightful Tango suite before accompanying the full choir in Ariel Ramirez’s Gloria from Misa Criolla – a piece with real Spanish flavour, part of a mass he wrote to celebrate the freedom granted by the then Pope to praise God in one’s own language. Andrew Ker supplied the percussion. Two pieces by Eric Whitacre started and closed the second half: the last composition of the night was the rousing With a Lily in your Hand.
This is an incredibly talented, versatile choir with a wide range of interesting and challenging music and I highly recommend them. Their next concert is on Saturday 12th September at St John the Evangelist in Iffley Road.