One of Britain’s most renowned early music groups will fill Durham Cathedral with the sounds of seventeenth century Venice.

I Fagiolini will make their first-ever visit to the cathedral to perform Monteverdi’s dazzling 1610 Vespers, as guest soloists with the Durham Singers at 7.30pm on Saturday.

As part of their celebrations this year of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary, I Fagiolini have performed at the BBC Proms and have released a CD “The Other Vespers” that topped the classical charts.

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Their director, Robert Hollingworth, who will conduct the concert, can often be heard on Radio 3 talking about early music with his unique blend of erudition and wit.

In the Vespers, Monteverdi mixes different musical styles, always paying great attention to the text to fill his music with colourful imagery.

There are majestic choruses of praise, often for double choir. These will be enhanced by the distinctive sounds of the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble.

The sackbut is an early form of the trombone, with a soft and mellow sound, while the cornett is an unusual

cross between a brass and wind instrument, capable of great virtuosity and with a hauntingly beautiful tone.

The excitement of these weighty choruses is interspersed with exquisite solos, including an unforgettable moment in which two angels call to each other across the vast space of the cathedral.

Several of the solos set texts of love poetry from the Song of Songs.

Jane Shuttleworth, publicity manager of the Durham Singers, said “We’re thrilled that we’re able to bring I Fagiolini on their first visit to Durham Cathedral.

"Monteverdi’s music demands really specialised solo technique and some unusual instruments, so being able to and work on it with Robert Hollingworth and this amazing team of singers and instrumentalists is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us.”

Sharing in this unique experience will be a group of students from Durham Johnston School and the Durham County Youth Choir.

The girls will sing the movement Sancta Maria, which is traditionally sung by a children’s choir, while the boys will provide the plainchant that links each movement. All the youngsters will join in some of the larger

choruses too.

The youth choirs have also been receiving coaching from Hollingworth at the concert rehearsals.

The work of the Durham Singers in bringing opportunities like this to young musicians has been recognised by the Arts Council who are supporting this concert with a grant from National Lottery funds.

Tickets from £10 - £20, on sale online from www.durham-singers.org, on the door, or in the cathedral from 1.30 - 4 pm on Saturday. For more information contact 0779 0148062.