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Luis Pecas at Aldenham School**
4:25pm Thursday 11th March 2010 in Local Reviews
Among singers, the good natural counter-tenor voice in men is comparatively rare, being also known as the male alto, with pitch slightly lower than in a woman contralto. (It must not be confused with the castrato voice, which used to result from a barbarous surgical procedure.) The English debut tour by the Portuguese counter-tenor Luis Pecas, with his accompanist Joao Santos, was therefore a real attraction to the Chapel of Aldenham School last Saturday.
Luis sang works by Handel, Vicente Martin y Soler, Cesar Franck, Lorca and Giordani; some of these were very well known and others were folk songs. His voice is powerful, with a remarkable tone quality, though not always agreeable, especially towards the top of his range. He was not helped - nothing in the evening was helped - by the booming acoustics. Moreover, there was a lack of variety and expressiveness and his dynamics tended to monotony. It is to be hoped that these shortcomings in musicality will be overcome with experience.
To accompany him, Joao Santos used three instruments. The chapel organ is designed on the extension principle and is not ideal for his sort of music. The pianoforte has no doubt suffered from hard use in the school environment. As to the electronic keyboard, some of its effects were peculiar. Joao played several solo organ pieces. Two were very well known, one by JS Bach and one by Vierne; another was a novelty by a seventeenth-century Portuguese. However competent the performer, one may question the wisdom of playing three such different instruments on a single occasion.
On arrival at the chapel, I learned that much of the programme would be performed by pupils of Aldenham School. The choir sang hardy perennials by Faure and Gibbons with infectious enthusiasm, though inevitably their young voices were sometimes wanting in polish.
Special moments were the solos by April Koyejo - Massenet's Adieu notre petite table - and Alice Erman - Betty Roe's The Lass from the Low Country. For tone and phrasing they had nothing to learn from Luis.