The promise of rebirth and rejuvenation is celebrated by SOMM Recordings’ Songs of Renewal, a collection of choral works – including two first recordings – by seven living British composers performed by Bath Camerata under musical director Benjamin Goodson. Joining the ensemble are soprano Elizabeth Cragg and composer-pianist Huw Watkins, whose Shakespeare setting The Phoenix and the Turtle (2014) moves puissantly from monotone chanting to solemn chorale for an allegorical poem mourning the passing of ideal love.
Commissioned by Bath Camerata to mark its 30th anniversary in 2017, the disc’s title track is a three-movement choral suite by Will Todd reflecting his interest in jazz music and featuring lyrics by the composer and former UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.
The earliest work, Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year (2000), is a rich and varied tribute to the composer’s late mother cast in seven sections and setting an eclectic array of texts by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Nashe and others. To words by E.E. Cummings, Judith Weir’s a blue true dream of a sky (2003) is, says English music specialist Jeremy Dibble in his booklet notes, “a revelation of the divine”. Cecilia McDowall’s Standing as I do before God is a moving centennial tribute to the British nurse Edith Cavell executed by the German army in 1915.
Two pieces by long-time SOMM collaborator, composer-baritone Roderick Williams, complete the disc. The setting of George Herbert’s Eucharistic poem Love bade me welcome (2007) is, in Jeremy Dibble’s words, “an harmonically sumptuous, largely homophonic narrative” that speaks of atonement and redemption.
Commissioned by Bath Camerata in 2018, Everyone Sang sets a familiar text by First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon in a poignant and powerful riposte to the futility of war that holds out the curative promise that “the singing will never be done”. Bath Camerata’s previous recordings for SOMM, with its founding director Nigel Perrin, include The Choral Music of Antonín Tučapský (SOMMCD 205) and the Gramophone Critics’ Choice To Music, a collection of German Romantic part-songs (SOMMCD 215) hailed as a recording of “uniform excellence… everything here is outstanding”.
On This Recording
Jonathan Dove: The Passing Year*
- The narrow bud opens her beauties to the sun
- Answer July
- Hot Sun, Cool Fire
- Ah, Sun-flower!
- Adieu! Farewell earth’s bliss
- Ring out, wild bells
- a blue true dream sky**
- Threshold of Night
- Me renovare
- Return Again
- Standing as I do before God**
- The Phoenix and the Turtle
- Love bade me welcome
- Everyone sang
Will Todd: Songs of Renewal
“ Themes of renewal and regeneration run through a recital devised to celebrate a new era for one of the UK’s great chamber choirs. … It’s a heartening program… Goodson and his singers make strong advocates… [they are] able to heighten the dramatic scope of Watkins’s lovely Shakespeare-setting and create a more marked contrast between Dove’s piquant piano accompaniment and the smudgy choral texture above. … If you only listen to one track though, make it Judith Weir’s sumptuous a blue true dream of sky, its big-boned generosity so natural a response to E.E. Cummings’ verse. Or maybe Tarik O’Regan’s Threshold of Night, memories of Leighton and Britten stirring in the background of this tender exploration of childbirth.” —Limelight Magazine in a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review