Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Passion for unaccompanied male voices
The Burgundian Cadence
ZEN608 [41.01]


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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 skilfully avoided.

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 sincerity.

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 press release.

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'.

Rob Barnett



Rob Barnett

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