Have you ever experienced choral music in complete darkness? Sold out for the second year running, VOX Cape Town presented a programme of rarely-performed choral music “In the Dark” on Wednesday 18 October 2017 as part of a concert series coordinated by Biblioteek Productions in the spacious acoustic of the Youngblood Gallery in Bree Street.

As with “In the Dark :: Tave(r)ner” in 2016, listeners were invited to wear blindfolds; in any case, the singers were hidden from view on an upper level of the gallery. Their cascading voices presented austere minimalism by the Estonian Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) which, in the second part of the programme, was contrasted with the buoyant Renaissance polyphony of Palestrina (c. 1525-1594). The programme ended with a locally-inspired “wildcard” – an invocation to the rain by Franco Prinsloo entitled “Pula, Pula!” It was almost as if someone was listening: As the final chords dissolved into nothingness, the faint sound of raindrops falling on darkened city streets permeated the silence.

• “Da Pacem Domine” (“Give peace in our time, O Lord”) – Arvo Pärt (b. 1935, Estonia)
• “Summa” – Arvo Pärt
• “The Deer’s Cry” – Arvo Pärt
• “Bogoróditse Djévo” – Arvo Pärt
• “Fratres” (“Brothers”) – Arvo Pärt*
• “Exsultate Deo” (“Sing joyfully unto God”) – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594, Italy)
• “Veni, Creator Spiritus” (“Come, Creator Spirit”) – Palestrina
• “Sicut Cervus” (“As the hart longs for the flowing streams”) – Palestrina
• “Pula, Pula!” (“Rain, Rain!”) – Franco Prinsloo (b. 1987, South Africa)

* With Charles Mostert (first violin), Owen Rogers (second violin), Karen Hahne (viola), Hannes Holm (cello)


Arvo Pärt (b. 1935, Estonia) is a pioneer of the style called “holy minimalism” along with contemporaries Henryk Górecki and John Tavener. His most performed instrumental works include “Spiegel im Spiegel” (featured in Northern Lights: A Baltic Voyage) and “Fratres”, which was played by a string quartet on 18 October. Pärt is known for his self-invented compositional technique called “tintinnabuli” and has written: “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played.” Arvo Pärt’s music is in part inspired by Gregorian chant which immediately suggests a suitable pairing with early polyphonic music.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) is considered by many to be the greatest composer of liturgical music of all time. An Italian Renaissance composer, Palestrina had a lasting influence on the development of church music. His output included over 100 masses and 300 motets. Born in Palestrina near Rome (hence his name), he lived until his late 60s – no mean feat in the 16th century.

VOX Cape Town IN THE DARK | EVOLUTION (2020), Górecki/Glass (2018), Pärt/Palestrina (2017), Tave(r)ner (2016)