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on 14 September 2006
I bought this CD after being impressed by the Naxos disc of `John Rutter's Requiem. That was something of a revelation, and probably the strongest recording of that work available. This disc is far less impressive.

The Mass of the Children is a fine work. As when recording the Requiem, this Naxos version uses the chamber ensemble version of the work rather than the full orchestral version. As with the Requiem the performance is top notch, both musicians and voices. No one should expect a piece called `Mass of the Children' to be as deep or searching as a Requiem and this is indeed a lighter work. John Rutter was inspired by his experience of singing in Benjamin Britten's War requiem in 1963, but it is a lighter side of Britten's choral writing that inspires him here. The singing is perhaps nearest to Britten's `Ceremony of Carols'. If I had to sum up the style of this work in one phrase it would be `Britten goes to Broadway'. There are some lovely tunes here, starting with the opening Kyrie; the most beautiful melody is saved for the Sanctus and Benedictus, where the tune harks back to the instrumental writing of Bach and Handel. The reduced chamber ensemble accompaniment sounds ideal.

So, having praised the Mass for Children, where is the disappointment? The answer is - in Shadows, the Song Cycle for baritone and guitar which takes up 25 minutes of this disc. It is intended as a homage to 16th century Lute Songs. The opening song Shadows highlights what is wrong here. The guitar accompaniment sounds like 1960's acoustic art rock and simply doesn't go together with the full on classical singing style of Jeremy Huw Williams. As the cycle unfolds another weakness becomes apparent. William's voice if full of life, but Stewart French appears to be sleepwalking through the guitar part.

The quality control returns for the final track `Wedding Canticle' featuring a haunting dreamlike flute and guitar accompaniment. Here the still day dreaming guitarist is in his element.

So. Four Stars for Mass of the children. Two Stars for Shadows and Five stars for Wedding Canticle. I am giving this disc 3 stars overall.
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on 4 April 2006
What can I say to do this recording justice? The two choirs (Farnham Youth Choir & Clare College, Cambridge) are just outstanding.
The music is right for any mood, and is suitably 'accessible' if you're not really sure about classical music. If you happen to be an expert on everything from Albinoni to Wagner then you will definately appreciate the qaulity of this work.
Happy listening.
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on 21 May 2016
Very beautiful chorale piece I got this as we are singing it and I listen to it in the car or in and being very lovely piece of music I have to say on first listening the Agnis Dei was not an easy to like piece BYT the more I sung it the more I get it and like it
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It is fashionable in some circles to deride the music of John Rutter because of its strong popular appeal, and indeed it may be true that Rutter is the John Stainer of our era. That is, his music is simple enough to be taken up by amateur groups, church and lay alike, and is enjoyed by many although it possibly will not be remembered by posterity. Somewhere I saw Rutter compared with Andrew Lloyd Webber, but that's a specious notion; Rutter is much more skilled than Webber, regardless of the man-on-the-street popularity of the latter. Rutter is a very careful and meticulous writer with to the ability to write tunes that become veritable 'ear-worms.'

The major piece on this CD is the 'Mass of the Children,' written in 2002. Although recorded before, this is the first recording using the version for chamber orchestra and organ along with mixed choir, children's choir, and soprano and baritone soloists. Rutter conducts forces from Clare College, Cambridge, his alma mater, and gets a marvelously focused and precise performance. He also conducted the earlier CD using full orchestra, which I have not heard. He says he was stimulated to write this piece by the strong memories he retained from singing in a children's choir in the first recording of Britten's 'War Requiem' which uses the same forces. Indeed, the first few minutes of the piece, the Kyrie, sounds for all the world like it could have been written by Britten. Indeed, throughout the 'Mass' (particularly the 'Gloria') one hears echoes of Britten's modal triad-based harmonies; of course the sound of children's chorus singing English words also reminds one of Britten as he wrote so much for trebles in his long career. Early on in his career, Rutter was heavily identified with the Faure Requiem and one hears similarities to that work. Still, this is indubitably Rutter through and through. And for those who love his music, this recording (or the version with full orchestra on Collegium) is a must-have.

The disc is filled out by a charming 1979 song cycle for baritone and guitar called 'Shadows.' It is sung idiomatically and lovingly by Jeremy Huw Williams accompanied by a recent Clare graduate, guitarist Stewart French. The eight songs, all evoking images of the evanescence of life, are set to English poems from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The most familiar text is probably Herrick's 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.' Full texts are provided in the booklet, but Williams's diction makes referring to them virtually unnecessary.

The six-minute-long 'Wedding Canticle' for mixed choir, flute and guitar is set to Psalm 128 -- 'Blessed are they that fear the Lord and walk in his ways...' -- a text used in the Anglican wedding ceremony. Flutist Daniel Pailthorpe joins guitarist French, weaving filigree in and around the simple, gentle choral sound.

Not enough can be said for the Clare College Choir and the Farnham Youth Choir. Their contribution is impeccably tuned, musically shaped and entirely engaging.

Scott Morrison
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on 30 November 2010
Rutter writes beautiful music in the choral tradition, but with a modern feel. This CD is lovely to listen to.
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on 15 November 2009
I bought this CD as one of the choirs that I sing with will be performing the piece next term. I don't like it at all and will probably drop out. I'm rather disappointed as generally I enjoy Rutter's work.
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