Passion for unaccompanied male voices
The Burgundian Cadence
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This is noticeably in the English cathedral tradition but is marked out by
a luxuriance of tone not naturally associated with male voices. Robert Hugill's
interpretation of the Passion is counterpointed by the poetry of Carl
Cook. The richness of tone is remarkable given that the ensemble comprises
only four voices: a counter-tenor, two tenors and a bass. All the voices
are impressive but I especially mark out Rupert Damerell's counter-tenor
(Jesus) which consistently reaps emotional shivers of pleasure (try track
2). Clarity of diction is clearly important to the singers and the composer.
However this is achieved inside a lively and reverberant sound-envelope.
The reverberation could easily have clouded the words but this problem is
As for parallels: think in terms of Britten (St Cecilia Hymn and
Serenade), Burgon (his choral music) and factor in an element of the
emotional affluence of Herbert Howells. Another work came to mind as well
although this work is not at all well known. It is Christopher Brown's Hodie
Salvator Apparuit - well worth your attention. Hugill's work breathes
There is some fairly four-square recitative which conveys a functionally
devotional approach. Just when you begin wondering whether things are turning
conventional Damerell's singing transforms the scene (track 6).
I have included ordering details and further background from the composer's
I trust that we will hear more of this ensemble. As for Rupert Damerell I
shall hope to see his name appearing in its own right - certainly a hot prospect
in the rising generation.
A disc recommendable for those following the British a cappella choral
tradition and with a readiness still to be 'surprised by joy'.