reviews

“The intonation was faultless, the dynamic range was astonishing and the sound produced by these 23 singers was truly beautiful. This is a choir to look out for.”.
MUSICWEB

“Only one word can really describe the performance given by Mosaic and that is exquisite. Their concert in the Lady Chapel of St Albans Abbey consisted entirely of 20th and 21st-century music for Advent. The well-balanced programme included a wide variety of styles which all worked well not only in demonstrating the tremendous skill of the choir but also to delight the audience.”

“… this was an evening of fine music exquisitely performed in a fine setting. No live performance can ever be perfect but this was getting very close.”

“One of the best concerts produced by a group of local singers for some time – this was an outstanding evening.”

“Mosaic is pushing standards to a new high. The evening was an example of the very highest level and Nick Robinson’s direction of the choir was a complete joy.”
HERTS ADVERTISER

“Mosaic presented a meticulously presented programme of choral music. Their infectious enjoyment of their performance delighted the audience and such was the quality of the singing one could forgive oneself for imagining one was sitting in King’s College Chapel!”
BUCKDEN PRESS

“[The audience] were treated to a superb concert by Mosaic. The blend and balance of the singers, seemingly effortlessly achieved, was evident throughout with faultless intonation.”
JULIAN CABLE

 

From our concert on 16th April 2011:

Every time I listen to a concert by Mosaic, the St Albans-based chamber choir, I am amazed that they appear to be even better than on the previous occasion.  It’s hard to believe that this group of outstanding amateur singers can continue to improve yet, between the last time I heard them at Christmas and Saturday’s concert of music for Holy Week,  the group appeared to have moved even closer to perfection.

By any standard, their programme was a tough one to sing, ranging from Antonio Lotti’s stunning Crucifixus dating from around the end of the 17th Century to the equally fine Evening Hymn written in 1872 by the Finnish composer Elnojuhani Rautavaara.  But the excellent combination of fine voice and attention to the smallest detail by the choir’s director, Nicholas Robinson ensured that the music filling St Peter’s Church in St Albans was of a standard that would be hard to beat.

After opening with Lotti’s Crucifixus, the choir continued with Maurice Greene’s great anthem Lord Let Me Know Mine End and went on to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor, where individual members of the choir have the opportunity to sing solo parts, something each one of them achieved with consummate ease and style.  Rautavaara’s setting of the Evening Hymn, although relatively modern, is a complex, yet fine sounding work made harder for the choir because they were singing it in its original Finnish. But the effect was completely compelling.

The first half ended with Plorate filii Israel from Jephte by the 17th-Century Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi, another fine example of music of that period and again a work which the choir handled with great skill to achieve stunning sounds.

Sung by just the tenors, bass and male altos of  the choir, Thomas Tallis’s Lamentation of Jeremiah was completely outstanding. The 14-strong group gave a performance which was as fine as you could wish for.

Before Francis Poulenc’s Four Motets for the Time of Penitence, Tom Winpenny, Assistant Master of the Music at St Albans Abbey, played Maurice Dupré’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor Op 7 no 3.  The work has an extremely tricky prelude and rousing fugue and Tom’s performance did justice not just to the composition, but also to St Peter’s Church’s fine organ.

The Poulenc motets which ended the concert once more demonstrated the tremendous quality of the choir and its versatility.

This was a concert in which Mosaic set a standard which other choirs – not just in St Albans – would find hard to achieve.  It is difficult to believe that those taking part are not full-time professional musicians.
John Manning, Herts Advertiser

From our concert on 18th December 2010:

Anyone expecting all the old favourite carols might just have been a little disappointed by the programme at Mosaic’s candlelit concert on Saturday.  Instead, those who braved the snow [to reach St Peter’s Church in St Albans] were treated to an outstanding evening packed with music mainly from the 20th century.

Choir director Nicholas Robinson led the group through carols and songs by composers as diverse as Benjamin Britten, Herbert Howells and Bob Chilcott in the outstanding programme which once more demonstrated the excellence of the group.

Mosaic’s ability to switch styles was demonstrated throughout the evening with its performance of such numbers as Mendelssohn’s delightful Weinachten and Sir John Taverner’s sonorous The Lamb.

For the relatively small number of people who managed to get to the concert it was certainly an event which truly launched Christmas in a thoroughly enjoyable style.
John Manning, Herts Advertiser

From our concert on 20th November 2010:

Composer Michael Oliva, who teaches composition with electronics at the Royal College of Music, originally trained as a biochemist and this background seems to have held him in good stead for manipulating the mysteries of electro-acoustics in his musical output.  He brought these specialist skills to St Albans for the world première of his Requiem for choir, alto flute, organ and electronics which must have been a first for electronics in St Albans Cathedral Lady Chapel.

Local choir Mosaic, formed but four years ago and much acclaimed, rose to the occasion well under their director Nicholas Robinson, giving us thrilling crescendos and well-managed top notes in this exhilarating work, with short solos from choir members at high points. Bells recorded in the Tiger Hill Temple in Darjeeling were integrated into the sound system by Oliva to atmospheric effect. I particularly enjoyed ‘Threnody’ – a movement without words with bell resonances, humming from the choir, to accompany the alto flute’s soaring glissandi and virtuoso arpeggio leaps. The final ‘Valedictio in Paradisum’ was also a highlight of the work, backed by finely judged sonorities from the organ.
excerpt from JILL BARLOW, Tempo
Tempo is the premier English-language journal devoted to twentieth-century and contemporary concert music and is published by Cambridge University Press.

 

Mosaic [the St Albans based chamber choir] once more demonstrated its tremendous versatility when it presented the specially commissioned Requiem for choir, alto flute, organ and electronics by well-known composer Michael Oliva.

Mosaic, under their director Nicholas Robinson, excelled in the work, producing quite amazing tonal qualities which filled the Lady Chapel at St Albans Abbey. And solo parts sung by members of the choir simply emphasised the overall quality of the group.

The organ parts, played by the Abbey’s assistant master of the music, Tom Winpenny, were well constructed and appealing and the use of the warm mellow tones of the alto flute played by Carla Rees added hugely to the success of the work.

Overall the excellence of Mosaic’s performance proved once more that contemporary music can be just as delightful and inspiring as that of the great composers of earlier ages.
John Manning, Herts Advertiser


From our concert on 3rd July 2010:

FROM the moment the first notes of Shenandoah echoed around St Peter’s Church members of Mosaic brought a touch of magic to a warm Saturday evening.

The 19 voices of the St Albans-based chamber choir were in perfect pitch from the very start of the concert which was packed with easy listening, if difficult to sing goodies, mainly from light music composers of the 20th Century.

Far removed from many of the choir’s other fine performances which have often included ecclesiastical music by some of the truly great classical composers, Saturday’s concert simply proved the versatility of this outstanding group of singers and its director, St Peters Church’s director of music, Nicholas Robinson.

With numbers such as Blue Moon, The Way You Look Tonight and Ain’t Misbehavin’, this was a relaxing, fun-packed event , and it was clear throughout that the singers were enjoying themselves as much as their audience.

The choir’s superb intonation and vocal blend added tremendous feeling to such numbers as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Summer is Gone and Elgar’s As Torrents in Summer as well as Sherwin’s classic A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

Adding extra spice to an already rich and delectable confection were outstanding solos by soprano Juliet Hall in Summertime and bass Ed White in the Londonderry Air. These simply added to one of the finest evenings of choral music it was been my pleasure to hear in quite a time.

Mosaic is a choir which constantly thrills and delights with its sheer excellence as well as its diversity of programme. One simply awaits its next appearance in the city when it is to give the premiere of a new work by composer Michael Oliva.
John Manning, Herts Advertiser

From our concert on 29th May 2010:

Mosaic’s Shakespeare In Song at St Lawrence’s Church, Abbots Langley

Mosaic, a chamber choir with more than 18 singers, having both amateur and professional musical backgrounds, came up with an ingenious idea for this recital. There are many songs in Shakespeare’s plays, and he wrote other poems short enough to be set to music as independent pieces. Some of the settings by composers of various periods are very well known, and in this programme it was hard not to think of them when later or less well known settings were sung. Given the title of the occasion, it was a slight surprise that many of the songs were by other poets – though famous ones – and one of the Shakespeare settings was not written as a song. Madrigals of his time were well represented by works of Byrd and Weelkes.

Naturally, Ralph Vaughan Williams provided more of the settings, by both Shakespeare and other poets, than any other composer. His interest in folk song and his place in the development of English music around the early 20th Century were convincingly demonstrated by Mosaic. Sometimes I wondered whether the dynamics and the rhythms emerged naturally from the writing or were imposed too rigidly by the conductor.

The works of EJ Moeran, from a slightly later period, are less well known, and the six Songs of Springtime well deserved this performance. With this choir, one need not worry about the standard of singing (though no-one is ever perfect); their accuracy in rendering both today’s harmonic language and the reminiscences of the Elizabethan style was impressive. Nicholas Robinson, conductor and director of Mosaic, again showed great skill in fostering their talent.

Nowadays, when thinking of English song one cannot ignore John Rutter, but his works were pedestrian compared with the setting by the slightly older Nils Lindberg (born 1933) of Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’.

Lindberg is Swedish, and his approach involves elements of jazz and an individual use of harmony. For me, this was the high point of the evening.

For variety, the programme included readings by the versatile actor John D Collins. They included Shakespeare’s sonnet My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, and several passages from the plays, so well known as to be hackneyed. Collins has a strong voice, but the rendering of Shakespeare’s verse is not his best point.
Graham Mordue, Watford Observer

From our concert on 27th March 2010:

It is no exaggeration to say that Mosaic, the St Albans-based chamber choir, now sits on a par with almost any of this country’s leading professional choirs, at least as far as quality goes.

And Saturday’s concert at St Peter’s Church in St Albans demonstrated the fine approach to music its members and director Nicholas Robinson bring to their performances.

Mosaic set itself a challenging programme of music suitable for Lent and Passiontide which led its audience across the centuries from the 1500s to the present day with composers as diverse as Thomas Tallis and Philip Moore.

Mixed with real favourites such as Thomas Tomkin’s setting of the text When David Heard, Palastrina’s Stabat Mater and Finzi’s Welcome Sweet and Sacred Feast were such rare gems as Pablo Casals’ setting of O Vos Omnes and Pierre Villete’s Attende Domine.

This concert was a feast of fine and beautiful music exquisitely sung by a group of musicians who regularly produce great music, no matter what form it takes. Their phrasing, dynamics and overall sound quality were really exquisite and Mosaic really did justice to an extremely challenging programme.

But even though Palestrina’s Stabat Mater was the highlighted work, the piece which left everyone gasping was Philip Moore’s amazing setting of Three Prayers by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran minister executed by the Gestapo in 1945.

Although only composed in 2002 the work is already becoming a firm favourite. Saturday’s performance was completely powerful and moving; particularly the completely stunning alto solo in the first section sung by Kristine Jenkins.

St Albans Abbey assistant organist Tom Winpenny accompanied the choir and provided two organ solos, Joies and Luttes from Trois Dances by the French organist and composer Jehan Alain.

The two pieces were a total contrast to the rest of the programme and, although they were expertly performed, they seemed not to fit the mood of the evening.
John Manning, Herts Advertiser

From our concert on 14th March 2009:

“An atmosphere was created from the opening note [of the Agnus Dei by Barber] which remained for the rest of the concert; it is hard to put into words – to say it was very, very good doesn’t even come close. These high standards were maintained throughout the evening.”

“The most impressive quality of the evening’s performance was the balance of the sound the choir produced, and Nick Robinson’s discriminating ear is clearly an important factor in that.”

The intonation was impeccable.. the ensemble creates a plethora of sound colours, within a broad dynamic range.”

“An absorbing evening which was spellbinding from start to finish.”

“Mosaic achieved musical standards of which any professional choir would have been proud. The unanimity of the ensemble, the impeccable intonation, their focus and energy, did them and their director every credit.”

“It would be a challenge indeed to find more polished choral performances…”

Take him Earth for Cherishing [by Howells] had a particularly profound emotional effect and was given an exquisite performance.”

“Bax’s This Worldes Joie …was another high quality performance which left me mesmerised.”

“This dramatic work [Jehovah Quam Multi Sunt Hostes by Purcell] is full of contrasts, and the choir gave a ravishing performance.”

“The choir handled the complexities of [Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater] with apparent ease.”

Scarlatti’s ‘Stabat mater’, particularly memorable moments included the quiet intensity of the shifting harmonies… followed by the exuberance of the fugal finale section… – a fitting climax to a superb concert.”

From our concert in November 2007:

GIVEN that Mosaic’s inaugural concert was only two years ago, the quality demonstrated at the Cathderal last month is more than remarkable.

In one sense they are professional, in the exacting standards their admirable conductor Nicholas Robinson sets, but they come, as do the high level orchestral players, under that banner as teachers, doctors, lawyers during the week. Alongside Mr Robinson was Simon Johnson, Assistant Master of the Music and director of the Abbey Girls’ Choir, on this occasion soloist in works by Bach and Herbert Howells.

From their first chord in Bach’s Komm, Jesu, Komm motet for double choir, one sensed Mosaic’s unity of tone and a freshness and devotion that was to characterise the whole evening.

With such commitment, a choir like this can tackle the most demanding repertoire and Howells’ Requiem is certainly part of that. One could not wish for a better performance except perhaps for an occasional real pianissimo to set alongside their enviable ability.

Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna (1997) is a welcome addition to the repertoire and Mosaic seemed to enjoy it while showing great awareness in keeping pitch between the organ passages. The final item, Bach’s ever- inspiring Singet dem herrn had more than a touch of joyful dance about it.

A significant concert in every way. Do take any opportunity to hear them.
John Westcombe, Watford Observer