Choral Music, September 2015

UPPER-VOICE ANTHEMS

THE NEW NOVELLO BOOK OF SHORT & EASY ANTHEMS FOR UPPER VOICES [E/M]
ed. David Hill
Upper voices, with and without keyboard
Novello NOV295031 £9.95
Following his companion volume of short and easy anthems for SATB choirs, David Hill has here selected and edited 28 pieces for upper-voice choirs. As one would expect, this is a useful and practical collection of pieces of musical worth. It will be particularly good for cathedrals and churches where upper-voice choirs sing services, and for schools with treble voice choirs.
Although the title says ‘anthems’, the compilation includes a Latin Mass setting by Rupert Jeffcoat and music for evensong: Matthew Owens’s effective Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis to plainsong with faux bourdons, and David Terry’s set of 1662 Preces and Responses.
There are anthems appropriate for church festivals and general use. It is good to have the lovely Advent Responsory in three parts by Barry Rose who has also contributed a simple arrangement in two parts of John Tavener’s Lord’s Prayer. For Christmas there is the delightful Dormouse’s Carol by Elizabeth Poston and an Aztec carol in the Nahuatl language, fortunately with pronunciation guide. The Easter Troparion of the Eastern Orthodox Church is given pronunciation guides for the Russian and Greek texts. Useful non-singing translations are included for all the pieces in Latin.
Peter Miller has set to music short sections of the communion service, Lord I am not worthy (published by RSCM) andDraw near with faith, both included here, providing opportunities for choirs to enhance the liturgy chorally in different ways.
Styles in this collection are varied: there are several pieces by 21st-century composers whose ‘day job’ is (or was) working with upper-voice choirs, including Philip Moore, Keith Roberts, James Davy and Matthew Owens. They all write from a very practical basis, knowing what can be taught quickly and what is effective. Beautiful, although not well-known, anthems by William Byrd, Marcel Dupré, Franz Liszt and Lennox Berkeley also find a place. James Whitbourn has written an effective setting of Desmond Tutu’s prayer Goodness is stronger than evil and Jonathan Wikeley has contributed a sensitive setting of This is a thin place.
David Hill writes in his introduction that this collection hopes to convince that short and easy does not mean mundane or over-familiar. He has surely succeeded here, offering a collection of church music that is worthy, interesting, effective and can be learned quickly. It is wholeheartedly recommended!
Gordon Appleton

YOUNG VOICES FESTIVAL

ACT JUSTLY, LOVE MERCY, WALK HUMBLY [E]
RSCM S0165 £25.00 (affiliates £18.75)

The format of RSCM Young Voices Festival publications is well established, offering an inspiring service for upper or equal voices, but also a wide range of materials that school, church and community choirs may use flexibly in services, concerts and assemblies. The front cover gives a subtitle: ‘A festival service for young voices celebrating the Justice of God’. The trigger may be the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, but the range is wide and expressed in three sections, ‘The Free Society’, ‘The Freedom to Worship’ and ‘The Promise of Freedom’, sandwiched between ‘Gathering to Worship God’ and ‘Sending out’. Anthems include Ian Wicks’s Let justice roll like a river (words by Marty Haugen), Parry’s He delivereth the poor with as an alternative the Bernadette Farrell / Owen Alstott version of the Magnificat, and John Bell’s setting of Desmond Tutu’s Goodness is stronger than evil. Add five hymns, a gathering song (the African-American spiritual Freedom is coming), readings from the Bible and from Magna Carta, and prayers, and this becomes an anthology of material with many uses.
The book contains 43 pages of conductor’s score followed by 58 pages of singers’ music that may photocopied. So you only need to buy one copy. But purchase of that copy also gives you a password that enables you to download and open the same singers’ music pages if you prefer them as a PDF, along with the readings, performance tracks of all ten pieces, backing tracks of all but the unaccompanied piece, training notes and an order of service. There is such abundance of material that is unlocked by buying the one copy that it is difficult to think of any reason not to rush to the RSCM online shop and do so.
Stephen Patterson

UPPER-VOICE CAROLS

IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [M]
John Joubert
SA and organ
Novello NOV294129 £2.75
PATAPAN [E]
Ruth Sellar
SA (optional men) and piano
Novello NOV293286 £2.75
WE WERE THERE [M]
Rachel Portman
SSA and piano
Chester Music SRO100079 £2.95
John Joubert’s haunting setting of Rossetti’s poem was commissioned for the choir of Merton College, Oxford and is for two-part choir and organ. The accompaniment explores interesting tonalities, and the choir needs a secure sense of pitch. The commission was to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the founding of the college – presumably referenced through the frequent use of organum in the vocal parts.
Patapan was a winner in a carol competition and is an enjoyable romp in 6/8 time but with the chorus in 5/4. Written for two-part choir (rather low-pitched for children singing soprano and alto) with an optional part for men, the performance will be greatly enhanced by including the optional flute and snare drum parts.
With text by Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author, and music by Rachel Portman, perhaps best known for her movie scores, We were there was commissioned by the Liverpool Philharmonic in 2014 to celebrate its 175th anniversary. The divisi is not difficult and choirs will enjoy this attractive and effective piece for SSAA choir with piano accompaniment.
Gordon Appleton

‘MAKING MUSIC’ CAROLS

CAROLS FOR EVERYONE: CARNEGIE TRUST CAROL COLLECTION [M]
Upper voices, piano and optional adult choir
Novello NOV293810 £7.95
Carols for Everyone is a collection of seven ‘festive pieces’ for children’s and adult choirs singing together. The project was supported by Making Music and the Carnegie UK Trust, with the aim of bringing children and adults together in performance. Seven distinguished composers – Paul Mealor, Thea Musgrave, Christopher Robinson, John Duggan, James Whitbourn, Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Allain – have each contributed an arrangement of a carol or Christmas song.
In addition to their arrangements for children and adults, Thea Musgrave has provided a children’s choir version ofAdam lay y-bounden (using the melody in the Oxford Book of Carols arranged by Peter Warlock) for solo or semi-chorus and two-part choir; Christopher Robinson has also made a two-part, straightforward version of the Basque noel, The Infant King. Most arrangements in this collection require a reasonably competent children’s choir to sing in two parts and maintain its line independently of the SATB choir. If you have the opportunity of bringing together a children’s choir with an adult choir for a Christmas concert, this is well worth your perusal. The arrangement of Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer will almost certainly bring the house down.
Gordon Appleton

MIXED-VOICE CAROLS

IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [M/D]
Esther Vann
SATB
Acuta Music 978-1-873690-15-4 £1.60
DANCE AND SING (IL EST NÉ) [M]
arr. Ryan Murphy
SATB and piano
Oxford X564 £2.20
BALULALOW [E/M]
James Burton
SATB
Novello NOV293964 £1.75
LET CHRISTIANS ALL WITH JOYFUL MIRTH [E/M]
Owain Park
SATB and organ
Novello NOV293997 £2.75
YouTube has value in assessing music. There is a fine performance of Esther Vann’s In the bleak mid-winter online, sung by the Hereford Cathedral Voluntary Choir to whom the music is dedicated. This setting paints Christina Rossetti’s words beautifully and a competent unaccompanied SATB choir where each vocal part divides would enjoy it. On YouTube too you can hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Dance and Sing. This is an attractive arrangement of Il est né, le divin enfant. The score has piano accompaniment, although orchestral parts are available through the publisher. Much of the interest is in the orchestral accompaniment.
James Burton has composed a gentle and beautiful version of the carol Balulalow, which contrasts well with Owain Park’s exuberant setting of Let Christians all with joyful mirth, the winner of a 2012 carol composition competition. With accessible, straightforward harmonies, but underpinned by an accompaniment alternating 6/8 and 3/4 time, this is an arrangement that will enliven any choir’s Christmas celebration.
Gordon Appleton

IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER [E]
A LITTLE CHILD THERE IS YBORN [M]

Vernon Hoyle
SATB and organ
Fagus-music.com £2.00 each
TOMORROW SHALL BE MY DANCING DAY [E]
Geoffrey Atkinson
SATB and organ
Fagus-music.com £2.00
Vernon Hoyle’s In the bleak mid-winter is also available to assess on YouTube (search for ‘Cantus sing “In the bleak mid-winter” at Canterbury Cathedral’ as the name of the composer is not immediately clear). There are shades of Walford Davies which will be welcomed by many. Very different is the same composer’s A little child there is yborn where the words are set to music that appropriately has the feeling of a medieval dance. There are a few rising intervals that will cause problems on the first sing-through, but, once learnt, this would be a carol much enjoyed by singers and congregation.
Geoffrey Atkinson arranges the traditional ‘dancing day’ tune in music marked ‘With a gentle lilt’. It is a more reflective setting than many. I particularly liked the switch from G major to E minor for the last verse, making the final (G major) refrain of ‘Sing O my love’ all the more joyful.
James L. Montgomery

SIR DAVID WILLCOCKS

A CELEBRATION IN CAROLS [mostly M]
18 carols for mixed voices
Oxford 978-0-19-340501-1 £9.95
This is a wonderful tribute to Sir David on his 95th birthday. The scores of 15 of his classic carols are joined by one each from John Rutter, Jonathan Willcocks and Bob Chilcott. In his foreword, Rutter describes how his school friend, John Tavener, introduced him to the original Carols for Choirs in 1961. David Willcocks’s own carols are ordered chronologically from Away in a manger (Carols for Choirs 1) to Jingle Bells (100 Carols for Choirs), followed by three more recent ones – Lullay, my liking (2006), High Word of God, eternal light (2008) and Starry night (2004). Lullay, my likingwas written for John Rutter ‘on his 60th birthday’, who responds by including his own Rejoice and sing! ‘in celebration of the 95th birthday of Sir David Willcocks’. One cannot help being moved by Jonathan Willcocks’s Nowell, nowell! ‘for David, with love and admiration’ and by Bob Chilcott’s There is no rose dying away into the gentlest repetition of ‘transeamus’ – ‘let us follow’ to conclude the volume.
This handsomely produced book, with a chocolate box King’s College in snow on the front and a warmly smiling Sir David on the back, allows us all to share in its affectionate birthday tribute.
Stephen Patterson

EVENSONG CANTICLES

MAGNIFICAT & NUNC DIMITTIS [D]
SECOND SERVICE (MAGNIFICAT & NUNC DIMITTIS) [D]
Nico Muhly
SATB and organ
Chester SRO100070 & SRO10076 £3.50 & £3.95
CHRISTIANA CANTICLES [M]
John Rutter
SATB (opt. bar solo) and organ
Oxford X543 £2.90
Muhly’s first setting, made in 2004 for the choirs of Clare and Girton Colleges, Cambridge dances through the words with a light touch. It is difficult, but sung by a good choir with precision and commitment (and plenty of rehearsal time) would delight an evensong congregation. The second setting, written in 2014, is more ambitious and serious in intention and for this reviewer less successful as a liturgical piece. A joint commission, it was first performed by the choir of Christ Church, Christiana Hundred in the USA with organ accompaniment, and performed a week later in concert in Liverpool Cathedral with orchestral accompaniment (Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko) in which context it made considerable impact.
John Rutter’s Christiana Canticles were also written for the choir of Christ Church, Christiana Hundred, a professional choir, but Rutter has written a piece that good amateur singers as well as professionals will enjoy. Surprisingly it is his first setting of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. There is much contrast in the vivid characterization of each verse, and a particularly effective coming to rest on ‘as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever’. You can hear a recording of the complete Magnificat on the publisher’s website.
James L. Montgomery