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Gwyneth WALKER (b. 1947)
Now Let Us Sing – Choral Selections for Women’s Voices
How can I keep from singing? [3.53]
Gifts from the Sea [4:27]
Let evening come [4:17]
Six Songs for Women’s Voices [17:18]
I thank you God [4:57]
The Spirit of Women [10:07]
Crossing the Bar [4:54]
Hebrides Lullaby [3:48]
Peace I ask of thee, o river [4:51]
Now let us sing [3:49]
Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont/Dawn O. Willis
rec. Music Building Recital Hall, University of Vermont, January and June 2007
Private Recording [62:21]
Experience Classicsonline

The library of music for women’s voices is hardly massive, so there’s almost an open invitation to fill what is, essentially, a yawning gap.
Enter, then, Gwyneth Walker – not a name which is well-known beyond North America, yet she is, apparently, widely performed across the United States. There could be a reason for that. The music is approachable, melodious, and somewhat unchallenging. A number of tracks on this disc are arrangements of some rather esoteric texts: the opening track, for instance, is an 18th century Quaker hymn. Most of the content is sourced from female poets and feature profound, quite moving, thoughts – perhaps most especially the Six Songs for Women’s Voices, which feature text by the American poet May Swenson.
There’s also an interesting setting of e.e. cummings’ I Thank You God. Walker’s music also draws, extensively, on American folk music, in particular that of New England.
While the performances are perfectly approachable, hardly anything stands out. It’s all very similar: mezzo-forte from start to finish. There’s little to challenge and, while the few solo lines are pleasant, they are hardly the stuff to set the world of choral music on fire.
If anything, it is the accompaniments that are special: there are some quite intense, complex and interesting bases upon which the choral textures are built. Love is a Rain of Diamonds, for instance, or Never Sit Down. The performances of Shirley Smith and Xiudan Lin show considerable expertise.
The Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont (see their website) has only been performing for five years or so and they sound fresh. There’s also a particular enthusiasm for the music which is evident in this recording. Music director Dawn O. Willis clearly has a cultured group with which she works.
It would be interesting to see how they would approach some of the music for women’s voices written by the likes of Schubert or Schumann. That might be much more challenging – and telling.
Glyn Mon Hughes


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