Shoreditch Church, London
With its first part entitled Revolutionary Thought and its second Radical Action, James Weeks's new work, premiered in this Spitalfields festival concert given by the virtuosic New London Chamber Choir under the composer, might sound like a call to arms; and in its fuzzy, well-meaning way, it is.
The Freedom of the Earth, which underpins its choral message with a 10-piece instrumental ensemble here provided by the London Sinfonietta, uses words by Gerard Winstanley, leader of the 17th-century radical group known as the Diggers. With their opposition to buying and selling, and their devotion to the common ownership of land, their precepts register as green as much as red.
Weeks has been keen to avoid, he says, the danger of reducing music "to the level of an advertising prop" in using it to convey a political position. Arguably he has gone too far the other way. His word-setting breaks up the text in such a way as to make it hard to decipher. In the first section, the hard-edged, punchy quality of the instrumental writing has a Nymanesque truculence, though Weeks's material is a good deal more complex. In the slower second, instrumentalists took up positions around the church, from where their spatially conceived contributions, pared down to tiny motifs, matched the thinned-out choral writing. Yet it was hard not to feel that Winstanley's manifesto required an altogether more direct mode of expression.
In the second half, the light-filled textures of Christopher Fox's Allen Ginsberg settings American Choruses shone altogether more brightly.
The Spitalfields Summer Festival continues until 25 June. Box office: 020-7377 1362.
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