REVIEW: Transformers @ BREMF

Brian Butler October 29, 2019


Brighton Early Music Festival

BREMF Consort of Voices

St Martin’s Church, Lewes Road, Brighton

Since its formation in 2010 as a student/top amateur ensemble , BREMF Consort of Voices is one of the jewels in the crown of the Brighton Early Music Festival , led by its energetic and adventurous director Deborah Roberts.

Fitting in with this year’s theme of Metamorphosis, this concert showed how Renaissance composers were all too willing to imitate their contemporaries or those of the recent past – often embellishing and developing the original.

So in  Transformers we were served up an intriguing mix of church and secular music from the late 15th to the late 16th century.

Under Deborah’s direction, the 23 singers are constantly moving between items, which the director tells us is so that we get a wide range of voice combinations and not just a wall of sound.

Entering from the back of the church and processing through the audience we get to hear each individual voice as they open the concert with the anonymous Christmas chant Prater rerum seriem. This magic but simple sound is followed by two later versions of the same piece – by Josquin des Prez and Cipriano de Rore . Both works brought the rich sonority of the two bass lines- seeming to chase each other through the work.

Works by Gombert and Monteverdi showed off the choir’s wide range – from simple beautiful melodies to soaring , spirited full-throated sections.

Three versions of Milles regretz – the original by Josquin considered to be a 16th century chart topper – is only 40 bars long. It’s gentle, beautiful and far too short !

Cristobal de Morales transformation is into a full-blown Mass , of which we hear a haunting section.

But the triumph of the night for me was the interpretation of Thomas Tallis Spem In alium , arranged for 11 voices by Mick Swithinbank.

Full details of all music this evening here

There is much more to come in this annual festival which continues to surprise and delight its audiences.

BREMF continues until 10 November.

For full programme go to