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Choral works/Cecilia McDowall (Epoch CDLX 7146)
The comments on this most enjoyable and accessible CD are those of one with a background in popular music who has enjoyed, as a camp follower for several years, performances by the Weald Choir where his wife sings.
"Magnificat" is the longest work and features some demanding (on this listener) vocal harmonies which resolve happily. Orchestral accompaniment complements the vocals with subtlety. Individual instruments are given room to breathe – cello introduction is followed by oboe then violins. Bassoon (and bass or cello?) underscore the mezzo solo. Track 4 is a slow section, with subdued woodwind, which requires singers to hold long notes. If analogies are appropriate, please excuse my limited knowledge. Gorecki came to mind here, as did Bernstein in the more rhythmic preceding section, with interludes like a Shostakovich film score in track 2 and a Josquin motet after the soprano/mezzo duet. It seems good that a work should offer such diverse suggestions, yet retain its freshness and originality.
The charming Christmas cantata, "Christus natus est", incorporates five lesser-known carols including *Infant holy, infant lowly" performed by singers from Parmiter’s School. Inclusion in the repertoire of local choirs should encourage closer links with schools with all the opportunities this offers for widening the audience for choral music and its pool of performers.
The final "Fancy of folksongs", accompanied by solo harp, lightens the mood. As folk music, this sounds familiar and accessible. Wider acquaintance will give choirs a useful addition for concert programmes which feature works more demanding on listener and performer.
This CD deserves a wide audience, particularly among those responsible for the selection of choirs’ repertoires. All of these works deserve to be performed widely and regularly and I’m most happy to have been introduced to them. I commend them to you.
The composer’s website is at www.ceciliamcdowall.co.uk
Copyright © John Scott Cree 2005