Francis Pott: The Cloud of Unknowing – Church Music Quarterly
The Cloud of Unknowing is a collection of texts featuring cross references of texts from Biblical and poetic sources. It was originally just the setting of Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) that the extraordinary Vasari Singers commissioned, but this eventually grew into this 90 minute tour-de-force. It also is a vessel which in essence forms a questioning of Pott’s faith and ability to believe in his faith. In his own words:’…the music confronts a mid-life ebbing of faith. Scientific rationalism shrinks our place in the scheme of things…while the state of the world suggests a suffering God, powerless to intervene in any human misery’.
Like all great composers, Pott turns to music to try and create some sort of response. To put this into perspective, two events that surround the history of this powerful and emotional work are the tragedy of Beslan in 2004 (after which Pott wrote the first music) and the 7 July bombings in London, which occurred the day after the first performance.
The Vasari Singers are excellent – there is a vast amount of text to be sung and although it is occasionally lost, the feeling that is conveyed is always obvious and performed with unfailing commitment. Jeremy Filsell is superb in his playing, producing a constantly exhilarating sound from the remarkable Marcussen organ. James Gilchrist is a tenor with a remarkable ability to sing with clarity and near effortlessness. In his 50th year, Francis Pott has given us a work of huge power and individuality. This is an immense performance of an immense work.
Church Music Quarterly