This disc sets out a selection of John Rutter's works, recorded
between 1986 and 2005 and brought together under the theme of "Rejoicing and
Reflection". Rutter is well known throughout the world for his religious
compositions, so the title is unsurprising. This collection however is not
the usual Rutter music that seems to be churned out mindlessly again and
again in the choral community. There was a lot of material here that I had
never heard before, and it exposed me to a side of Rutter that was brand new
to me. I enjoyed it immensely.
I appreciated all of the music on this disc, including the hymn
arrangements - which are often hit and miss with me - they're either good or
very, very bad. Fortunately, these fell into the former category; I'd love
to perform them myself. They were great takes on classic favourites
including “Amazing Grace”, “Now thank we all our
God” and “All creatures of our God and King”. Not only
that, but the instruments and voices blended wonderfully. This is something
that is true for the disc as a whole - the blend is absolutely superb,
regardless of the number of vocal and instrumental forces involved. The
orchestra and organ do not overwhelm the choir, which is always a potential
problem when bring such large ensembles together. Each grouping has been
stacked and placed very well to avoid this, and it shows. The highlight of
the hymns for me was the a cappella verse of "All creatures of our God and
King". It was absolutely breath-taking and it left me with chills. This is
music that is harmonically complex and full of subtleties but without
detriment to the melody. Spot on.
The Cambridge Singers and City of London Sinfonia have the lion's
share of this disc. They present amazing performances: very clear diction,
tuning and a great sense of blend within the choir, as well as very
expressive playing from the orchestra. One thing that this compilation album
highlights is the choir's consistency over nearly twenty years. Achieving
this over such a prolonged period is astounding, and certainly shows the
Cambridge Singers occupying the very highest echelons of choral music
practice. Thought it is a small point, I feel I should point out that on
this disc, at various points, the Cambridge Singers field both female altos
and countertenors. It can be a difficult task to blend altos and
counter-tenors with such professionalism. As a counter-tenor myself, it is
something I deal with in much of my choral singing work. Here, however, it
is made to sound effortless, the alto section creating a very rich and
polished sound. That's just how it should be done.
I absolutely loved "A Choral Fanfare" and "A Choral Amen". In the
'Fanfare", the sound is somewhat reminiscent of the music of James Macmillan
- another astounding British composer. The choir is particularly good here,
and it shows that they are very strong indeed as an a cappella
ensemble in their own right. Both of these pieces gave me goose-bumps, and
the contemplative and ethereal qualities of the "Amen" were just sublime,
making for an intensely emotional listening experience.
They are not the only singers on the disc. The Choristers of St.
Paul's Cathedral make a brief appearance during "The Falcon" with fine
singing, and very clear diction. I would have expected nothing less from
these choristers. Well done. It’s a wonderful piece, by the way, and
it reminded me of Rutter's "Gloria" in places.
If you are looking for a disc of accessible, contemporary
inspirational music, you could do much worse than this. It left me feeling
uplifted and raring to get to the concert I had that evening.
This disc is perfectly suited to its theme of rejoicing and
reflection - the selection of pieces is brilliant. The music itself is
fantastic and executed to an astounding level of musicianship. I have used
this disc for reflection myself, and it works.