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Winds of Faith

21 June 2003
Birmingham Cathedral
with The Birmingham Bach Wind Ensemble.

"Spicer's composition is intoxicating."

"When Paul Spicer took over the baton of the Birmingham Bach Choir a decade ago, he found a body which its retiring conductor, Richard Butt, had moulded and maintained as one of great responsiveness and musical integrity over a good many years. Amazingly, Spicer has been able to follow this hard act by developing and extending the work of the Choir, widening its repertoire and finding new avenues for its expertise - so much so, that the nearest we came to Bach in Saturday's anniversary celebration was in certain aspects of the Bruckner E minor Mass.

But the most spectacular aspect of this joyous evening was the premiere of Paul Spicer's The Deciduous Cross, a 25-minute setting commissioned by Choir chairman Nicholas Fisher of religious poems by R S Thomas. The highly personal response of these texts to imagery of the Crucifiction is mirrored in Spicer's deeply-felt composition, almost intoxicatingly melodic throughout to create a chaste kind of spiritual ecstasy in which elements of reviving nature figures strongly. There are elements of birdsong here, scurryings of returning life, and even a cathartic kind of country dance. The ending is genuinely consoling, with an E major chord which links it by coincidence with the Bruckner's conclusion. Together both works make rewarding and economical choral-society material, needing merely a wind band (Saturday's was superb), and requiring no soloists. The Bruckner...was warmly, thrillingly given. As for Spicer's piece, his choristers did their much-loved director proud."

Christopher Morley
Birmingham Post