“Groundbreaking choral work – beautiful sounds and silences.”

“What an exceptional evening. From the opening vibrant Cloudburst, through the strains of the two Erics to the finale. This was mesmerising. Congratulations to all!”

“What a brilliant performance last night. Whitacre and the other composers (dead or alive) would approve. #Cloudburst #Sleep #Stars #WhenDavidHeard #alles”


“Above all, trust the silences.”
– Inscription on the musical score for “When David Heard” by Eric Whitacre

“Trust the Silences”, VOX Cape Town’s second major performance for 2016, celebrated contemporary choral music in the glorious acoustic of the Memorial Chapel, Bishops. Following their first major concert in September, VOX treated listeners to an altogether different musical journey – this time, one of renewal which featured the lush harmonies and shimmering chords of Eric Whitacre (b. 1970, United States) alongside the ethereal sounds of Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977, Latvia) and the hypnotic soundscape of the alternative band, Radiohead.

The performance opened with “Cloudburst”, described by the composer as “a ceremony, a celebration of the unleashed kinetic energy in all things”, replete with percussion from wind chimes to a bass drum and thunder sheet. The singers were joined by the skilled hands of Dylan Tabisher and Cherilee Adams (percussion) and Gillian Balintulo (piano). This was followed by a reflection on marriage written as a wedding gift to the composer’s wife (“This Marriage”), the simple chords of which dissolved into the harmonies of “Light and Gold”. “The Seal Lullaby”, a setting of a text by Rudyard Kipling, was written for an animated film that was never produced.

The centrepiece of the performance was a pairing of two different interpretations of a single, devastating sentence from the Bible describing the loss of David’s son. The first, written in a polyphonic style characteristic of the Renaissance, was set by Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656) while the second, set by Eric Whitacre, was inspired by the minimalist composer, Arvo Pärt. The anguish of “When David Heard” was attenuated by the introspective mood of two exquisitely-crafted pieces, “Stars” and “Sleep”. Finally, VOX looked to the future with two contemporary works – “Codex”, an arrangement of a song by Radiohead, and the single “Fly to Paradise”. For these last two items, we were thrilled to feature the vocal talents of Richard Brokensha, lead singer of local band ISO.

This concert was the second part of a series of “New Soundscapes” in which VOX intends to expose audiences to fresh choral sounds. The performance also coincided with the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the Bishops Memorial Chapel on 31 October 1926. We are grateful to Raïssa Philibert for capturing moments of the performance in the image gallery.