Richard Blackford

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Richard ALLAIN (b. 1965) When I'm Gone
Salve Regina Double choir
At Night I Seek the One My Spirit Loves
Soprano, soprano saxophone and organ
Bow Down Thine Ear, O Lord (Psalm 86) Choir and semi-chorus
Three Spirituals
Didnít My Lord Deliver Daniel?
SATB choir
Itís Me, O Lord
Double choir and semi-chorus
Don't You Weep When I'm Gone
SATB choir and semi-chorus
Missa Brevis
SA choir and organ
; Gloria; Sanctus; Benedictus; Agnus Dei
Two Christmas Carols
A Babe is Born
SSATB choir
Coventry Carol
Double choir and semi-chorus
Double choir and semi-chorus
Memento Homo
Soprano saxophone and organ
John Harle, Soprano saxophone
National Youth Choir of Great Britain
Laudibus/Mike Brewer
Rec. Edinburgh, 2003
DELPHIAN CDC34026 [79.17]

Salve Regina with its rearing looming white tone and Howells-like ecstatic steadiness is instantly impressive. This is combined with some alarmingly apposite Ligetian pitter-patter counterpointed with surging baritonal optimism.

At Night I seek the one my spirit loves juxtaposes the two lissom purities - that of Susan Hamilton's voice and of John Harle's grown-up, violently poignant and capricious saxophone. This in turn meets the 'Clockwork Orange' violence of the organ.

After three Ďinstrumentsí we come to choir and semi-chorus in Bow Down Thine Ear. Allain's imagination is luxuriantly stocked. There is no question of a limited range of expression. Single voices mingle with the burnished purple of the choirs and confiding whispers alternate with rough interjections. The casing and much of the substance is traditional although there are Pendereckian ululations among the harkings back to Warlock's Corpus Christi and Vaughan Williams' Shakespeare Songs.

The Three Spirituals are for a capella but with the usual mingling of solos and choir. The first has a taut, sparkling and vivacious energy. Word-shaping is painstakingly clear without affectation. The title of the disc is taken from the last spiritual Don't You weep when I'm Gone. The wave-curve of the singing inevitably links with Tippett.

The five section Missa Brevis is for women's voices and organ. The first two sections, Kyrie and Gloria struck me as quite conventional beside the Sanctus which, in its organ eddies and sand devils, recalls Messiaen.

Before this CD Allain's name had not registered with me at all. It turns out that Allain has specialised in writing music for children. Not a reason for neglect. If you are an adherent of English choral music do try this; something out of the ordinary and rewarding.

Rob Barnett

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