This remarkable association between an esteemed a capella
ensemble from Oxford and one of Soweto's most versatile gospel choirs
came to my attention at the City of London Festival. They had met and
began working together in post-apartheid South Africa, forging a remarkable
musical association between medieval chant and Renaissance song brought
by the British guests to their African hosts, who responded with traditional
Zulu harmony and enthusiasm. In 1995 composers in both groups, Roderick
Williams and Mokale Koapeng, started conceiving the possibility of performance
together. From this collaboration grew a joint repertoire of unforgettable
musics juxtaposed and intermingled in a heady brew, captured worthily
in this 1997 Erato recording.
Besides Sheppard and Howells sung by I Fagiolini,
and traditional South African hymn and community song given by the full
throated young Soweto students, there are to be enjoyed: Ah Robin,
a 16th century round embellished by a traditional Zulu chant;
Mokale's chant for peace combined with a Western Agnus Dei; the well
known SDASA version of The lord is my Shepherd; Roddy Williams
combination of African hymnody with Gibbons' O Clap your hands;
Machaut's Douce Dame combined with cyclic fragments, creating
a multi-layered tapestry of out-of-phase rhythms - - - and much more.
Presentation and recording are impeccable and the combined sound of
these 24 young people is uplifting. If you can't conceive what all this
might sound like, trust and buy - you'll love it!