My introduction to
the music of Patrick Larley came when
he sent two CDs to me following my review
of the choral music of Margaret Wegener.
His music is in the lyrical tradition
rounded by the natural rise and fall
of the human voice and by the English
Larley was born in
Frodsham, Cheshire in 1951. After study
at the Royal Manchester College of Music
he pursued a cathedral career as organist
and choral director. He is now a freelance
composer, conductor, harpsichordist
and organist living in a small village
in North Wales.
This recording of Larley's
Mass was taken down from the premiere.
There are the usual complement of coughs,
shuffling and rustling. It all adds
to the ambience - nothing deleterious.
This Mass, written
for the Millennium, mingles traditional
Latin elements with English poetry.
The style is rootedly tonal yet keenly
inventive. In the Kyrie the style reminded
me of that of another composer from
North Wales: the late William Mathias.
Mathias's outstanding cantata This
Worlde's Joie for soloists, adults’
choirs, children's choirs and a very
full orchestra. The spangled splendour
of that work can be heard here too.
This is more a matter of kinship than
replication. The vocal style for the
choirs is pretty catholic with sprechgesang,
whispers and rustles and much direct
singing. In addition there is a surging
and plunging role for the organ as well
as one of gentle supplication. The music
in the Credo picks up on the
optimistic charge to be found in the
choral works of Geoffrey Bush (his superb
cantata Summer Serenade), John
Rutter and Leonard Bernstein. I loved
the bubbling woodwind writing. The life-enhancing
syncopation (echoes of Constant Lambert)
to be found in some of Larley’s songs
also comes across in the Credo and
towards the end of the Agnus Dei.
Throughout the six separately tracked
panels of the Mass, each of which falls
into pause-separated segments, there
is also a reaching back across the Thousand
Ages of the Title to ancient and medieval
times. The sense of time-travel adds
greatly to the experience of this fine
cantata which stands in the long tradition
of anthology-based masterworks including
Bliss's Beatitudes and Morning
Heroes, Vaughan Williams' Dona
Nobis Pacem and Hodie as
well as Britten's Spring Symphony.
There is the occasional
mishap but these are transient issues
which do not detract. Listen to the
Sanctus and Hosanna with
their wondrously young-sounding children's
choir as it confers blessing like a
cooling breath over a world frantic
with gaining and losing; spending and
I strongly commend
this major piece of writing. Do seek
out this CD. I have given enough clues
to help you decide whether you would
like it. Choral societies and directors
looking for a major statement with which
to keep faith with audiences dry for
music that offers accessible and mystical
intercession should not hesitate.
Let's look out for
more music by Mr Larley.