Guest director Jack Symonds flagged that much of The Song Company’s Songs of Rosa Mystica concert was “demanding” of both singers and listeners, and he was right.
But in among the challenges – and some were significant for this listener, at least – there were also many rewards with much wonderful singing, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s word-bending poetry and a beautiful and moving tribute to Finnish spectralist composer Kaija Saariaho, whose death was announced just a few days ago.
Symonds built his programme around an astonishing a cappella sextet written by Elliott Gyger in 1993 for The Song Company’s 10th birthday. Performed only once before, Ficta uses a 15th century treatise in Latin on musica ficta, or fake music, in which singers introduce sharps and flats, or accidentals, to iron out dissonance, consonance and counterpoint problems.
Gyger’s text also incorporates the lyric from Wagner’s Prize Song from Die Meistersinger as well as a fake surrealist poem from the celebrated Ern Malley literary hoax.