Paul Driver: Sunday Times
27.4.97 Merton Chapel, Oxford
Stravinsky, Bainbridge, Ockeghem
...a concert that was among the most satisfying I have attended in months. The deeper concert satisfactions come, I am sure, when programme and hall are precisely matched, when the acoustic space participated in the expressive space rather than merely bounding it. A choral programme at Merton Chapel lets one live in the music in the keenest way. But you can inhabit a cliché and find it exploding into the truth. This happened to me as soon as James Wood's New London Chamber Choir started on the Missa pro defunctis by Ockeghem. Even older than this earliest surviving requiem, the building lifted the music into the present with extraordinary immediacy. Perhaps there is no more convincing way for the past to be experienced than through such performances. Without the encumbrances of "authentic" instruments and relatively free from interpretative controversy - for singing cannot change beyond a certain biological point - they give us the sensory reality of former times with measurable exactness. The polyphony floats and soars and cadences for us just as it did for them. The weight of the present falls away; yet, in the ideal conditions of Merton Chapel, you feel all the more vibrantly yourself.