Review: Late Night in the Cathedral: The Tears of St Peter at St Peter's Cathedral

By Lisa Lanzi


This programme is a highlight of the Adelaide Festival and deservedly so. Under the artistic direction of conductor Carl Crossin The Adelaide Chamber Singers represent choral perfection of an international and prize-winning standard.


The night became more significant as it was just after the tragic shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our evening began with a short address from Rev Frank Nelson, the Dean of St Peter’s and a New Zealand born person. He left us to meditate in silence for a minute with the Maori phrase Kia kaha (stand strong) in our hearts. Our shared contemplation then led into the performance with the spare and beautiful strain of a cello composition.


This year the programme includes Lagrime di San Pietro (The Tears of St. Peter) by Orlando di Lasso, a rarely performed work of the Renaissance era. The Lagrime di San Pietro is composed of twenty verses in Italian by poet Luigi Tansillo that meditate on St Peter’s guilt and remorse at his betrayal of Christ. The text of the final piece in the set - a motet in Latin - is possibly by Lassus himself. The complex and intimate piece is set for seven parts (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto 1, Alto 2, Tenor, Baritone, Bass) and is designated as a collection of ‘spiritual madrigals’. The exquisite layering of melody and harmony from all seven parts resonated in the Cathedral space and the universal themes of betrayal, guilt, regret and remorse moved the rapt audience. The Adelaide Chamber Singers are a precision ensemble with the most exact attention to the smallest details, their sound soaring and blending flawlessly in the space.


To complement the Lagrime di San Pietro, Carl Crossin has composed four ‘interludes’ to punctuate the natural divisions in the Renaissance masterwork. … and Peter went out and wept bitterly is a contemporary work inspired and influenced by Lassus’ work as well as Gregorian music and is set for soprano and cello. Guest soprano Greta Bradman was the interpreter alongside Simon Cobcroft, Principal Cello with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra since 2014. This ‘conversation’ between voice and instrument was transcendent in its beauty and execution. Greta Bradman’s voice has a purity and crystal clarity that seems more than human yet can also evoke a richer timbre as the composition requires. The cello part only added to the gravitas and the full tone perfectly complemented the vocals.


To complete the recital we were presented with the sublime Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus. This work has a fabulous and legendary provenance due in part to the Vatican’s secrecy and refusal to share the original transcription. However, the work we know today has been tweaked by many including Mendelssohn, Burney and Atkins and the famous and poignant passages containing the extraordinary high C’s probably came to us as a result of that meddling.


Provenance notwithstanding, this sublime music was sung with heart and devotion, meticulousness and delicacy by these brilliant performers with perfect leadership by Carl Crossin.


An event to cherish!

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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