> DOWNES The Lord is my Shepherd [DW]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Lord is My Shepherd. The Runnymede Millenium Evensong Service and other sacred choral music by Andrew Downes.
Members of the Royal Holloway Chapel Choir, directed by Lionel Pike with organist Brian Moles.
Classicprint CPVPO14CD
The Lord is My Shepherd
O love the Lord
I was Glad
Preces —
Psalm 121
Nunc Dimittis
O Sing unto the Lord
I will lift up mine eyes

The Souls of the Righteous
In Peace will I lie down


As the title suggest most of this is utility music for the Anglican service of evensong. It is not concert music and therefore may have a limited appeal. Andrew has been influenced by Gregorian chant and, I suspect, from heathen incantations which, coupled with simple and unadventurous harmonies and a lot of unison work in music that is predominantly slow, needs some stamina to listen to for any length of time.

The setting of Psalm 23 has a quiet confidence but does not lift my spirit. There are occasional lovely phrases particularly I will fear no evil. This piece is unaccompanied. I was glad is joyful in parts and again has some expressive phrase namely For my brethren and companions sake. The Evensong responses and usual church items are plain and perhaps that is exactly what Andrew wanted. This plainness exists in the setting of Psalm 121

The Magnificat is probably the best piece on the disc although the opening staccato vocal line did not convey my usual picture of the Virgin Mary. The use of the organ here adds colour and, again, there is some character here with a few great climaxes. But does this lend itself to the young and innocent peasant woman puzzled by what has happened to her and having to flee to avoid the shame and the wagging tongues?

The Nunc Dimittis was being written when Andrew’s mother, Iris, died and this disc is dedicated to her memory. I still talk to her husband, Frank, Andrew’s father, with whom I have a lot in common. Frank was a horn player and served time in Birmingham knowing all the conductors there from George Weldon to Simon Rattle. Frank’s book Around the Horn is a very interesting read.

This recording was made in Arundel Cathedral in January 2001 with its splendid organ. The choir has the very great advantage of female sopranos and altos. They made a lovely sound and the recording is generally good.

This is not the best disc to get to know Andrew’s music. The Centenary Fire Dances (reviewed earlier) is a very good introduction and a recording of his best symphony, the Symphony no. 2, should be high on someone’s agenda.

There is a possibility that Andy Anson and Alan Cuckston may be recording some of the flute and piano music including the Piccolo Sonata. This will be an important project. But lovers of church music should investigate this disc. They may well see far more in it than I have. One can miss the greatness of music if one is not the frame of mind to appreciate it at a particular time..

David Wright

See also profile of Andrew Downes by David Wright


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