- Conductor: Nicolae Moldoveanu
- Composer: Cecilia McDowell, Lynne Plowman, Tarik O'Regan, Sally Beamish
- Audio CD (31 Dec. 2008)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Avie
- ASIN: B001GJSDEO
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,040 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
A Song More Silent: New Works For Rememberance CD
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Avie Records and Portsmouth Grammar School are proud to release a brand new recording of new works to mark Remembrance Day featuring the Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir under Music Director, Andrew Cleary, The London Mozart Players conducted by Nicolae Moldoveanu and soloists Alexandra Stevenson (soprano), Sophie Bevan (soprano), Carolyn Dobbin (mezzo-soprano), Ben Johnson (tenor and winner of the latest Kathleen Ferrier Award), Dawid Kimberg (baritone), Michael Chance (countertenor), Sebastian Comberti (cello) and Paul Archibald (trumpet).
Commissioned by Portsmouth Grammar School, the CD features new works for choir and orchestra composed by Cecilia McDowall ("Ave Maris Stella"), Lynne Plowman (world premiere recording of "Cries Like Silence"), Tarik O'Regan (world premiere recording of "And There Was a Great Calm") and Sally Beamish (world premiere recording of "The Lion And The Deer").
The title, "a song more silent" is taken from the E.E.Cummings poem "these children singing in stone" as used in "Cries Like Silence" composed by Lynne Plowman.
Portsmouth Grammar School is uniquely placed to make this recording. The school is located in 19th-century barracks at the heart of a Garrison City, once the location of Richard the Lionheart's palace. Soldiers have been sent around the world from this site for centuries. It has been suggested that more pupils lost their lives in the two World Wars than at any other school of comparable size.
Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir, Andrew Cleary - (music director), London Mozart Players, Nicolae Moldoveanu - (conductor), Michael Chance - (Countertenor), Alexandra Stevenson, Sophie Bevan - (Sopranos), Carolyn Dobbin - (Mezzo Soprano), Ben Johnson - (Tenor), Dawid Kimberg - (Baritone)
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In recent years the London Mozart Players have worked together with the Portsmouth Grammar School on Remembrance Sunday in Portsmouth Cathedral.
For these concerts the school commissioned new works by British composers, four of whom were chosen to be recorded by the School's chamber choir, and the London Mozart Players in October, 2007, and have subsequently been released on Avie records under the title of 'A Song More Silent'. All but one of the works are herein recorded for the first time, the exception being the composition by Cecelia McDowall. They are listed and commentated in the order presented on the disc.
Lynne Plowman's piece 'Cries of Silence' is written for SATB soloists, choir, orchestra, organ, guitar and optional children's choir. (I don't think the guitar is on this recording.) She has chosen for her text a combination of two poems: 'these children singing in stone' by ee cummings and 'crows account of the battle from Crow' by Ted Hughes. In the piece she contrasts dynamic and dramatic story-telling with poignant and lyrical music. It is most important to read the liner notes for this work because without them it would be difficult to understand what exactly is happening. A most significant fact is that the two poems are set side-by-side in order to create a tension between poignant expression of innocence and a shocking description of the horrors of war. Some confusion is also brought about by the absence of good diction at times on the part of the soprano, Sophie Bevan. However, the choirs and the other three singers are quite clear and so one if able to pick up the meaning as the story moves forward. It is really quite an impressive work.
The work begins quietly(Cummings) with children and female soloist. The substantial middle section is a gripping and vivid setting dark and disturbing. It concludes with a thunderous dull drum-roll and the silence at the end is devastating to the listener.
Cecelia McDowall's 'Ave Maria aris stella' falls more easily on the ear and is the only piece on the disc that is not in English (Latin). She uses verses from an old Marian hymn, which refers to the Virgin Mary as the Star of the Sea, and some verses from Psalm 26 & 106. It's a well put together piece of music, quite poetic and scored for soprano solo, choir and strings.
Tarik O'Regan's vocal works are quite interesting and this piece 'And There was a Great Calm' is described by him as being 'traditional' memorial material. It's divided into two sections, the first being'quiet and gentle'(recollection), while the second is much faster and vibrant dealing with the future. Simply stated:'And there was a great calm' begins looking back and ends going forward.
The most substantial offering on the disc is the Sally Beamish 'The Lion and the Deer', which falls into six sections, and ambitiously brings together English translations of poems by the 14th century Persian metaphysical poet,Hafez, and from Haikus in a collection 'War and Conflicts' which is read by seven year pupils at the Grammar School. The piece is scored for countertenor, choir, strings and trumpet and cello solo.
The use of the countertenor in particular, imparts a suitably Arabian feel to the music, and Michael Chance is certainly given some challanging and atmospheric music, to which he responds with his customary eloquence.He and the two solo instruments carry the argument in the first movement. The following section uses the chorus singing more complex textures with more spoken haiku interjections. And the remaining movements are mostly carried by the countertenor, but the liner notes with the recording are very clear to follow, so a more complete explanation is there.
I think that it will take repeated listenings to fully allign oneself with Beamish's thought process. She says:' by placing Hafez words in the context of Remembrance Day,I hoped to reflect an ultimate human goal-a theme of endless love'. I don't get it, but maybe some of you will.
Even though this is a very difficult piece to perform, all seem to rise to the occasion. The Portsmouth Singers acquit themselves splendidly along with the excellent London Mozart Players and some outstanding vocal and instrumental soloists. THIS IS EXCITING AND ORIGINAL MODERN CHORAL MUSIC WELL EXECUTED BY ALL!