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David Ashley WHITE (b. 1944)
Praise The Spirit
see end of review for track listing
Alan Austin (violin), Martha Chapman (violin), Brady Knapp (baritone), Garrett Martin (trumpet), Patty Moeling (flute), Sarah Oldrin (soprano), Johanna Peske (oboe), Celeste Proffitt (percussion), Laurie Robertson (soprano),
Mitzi Sotrey (recorder), Brian Vogel (percussion), David Ashley White (keyboard), Laura Witt (harp), Ann Frohbieter (organ)
Choir of Palmer Memorial Church/Brady Knapp and Courtney Daniell-Knapp (directors)
rec. 9-10 January 2004; 26 October 2004; 24th-25 February 2005; 17 June 2006; 7 July 2006, Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston Texas.
GOTHIC RECORDS G49254 [74.25]

Experience Classicsonline

David Ashley White is the director of the University of Houston’s Moores School Music where he holds the Chair in music. He has taught at the university since 1977. White has produced a considerable body of work, some of which has found its way onto CD. This new disc focuses on White’s pieces written for liturgical use at the church. The choir of Palmer Church has a long association with White: they have sung his music for thirty years and he has composed a number of pieces especially for them.
Palmer Church choir numbers around fifty adults - the booklet refers to the adult choir so I assume there is a children’s choir as well - and is directed by husband and wife team Brady and Courtney Knapp. They have quite a high profile and have toured the UK where they have had residencies at Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge.
The CD booklet describes Palmer Church as being Anglo-Catholic. But the selection of music on this disc would firmly fit into the mould of mainstream Anglican Hymnody, Anglican Psalmody and Worship song; there are no mass settings or Marian hymns.
White obviously has a great gift for melody and an interesting ear for timbre. All the pieces here are well crafted and sound rewarding and uplifting to sing. They must make a very strongly positive contribution to worship. The textures of the pieces is amazingly varied and White manages to avoid the standard choir and organ hymnody by using accompaniment in a spare fashion, including an imaginative use of bells and other instruments.
White’s selection of texts is catholic, ranging from a hymn by Clement of Alexandria, through the Psalms to contemporary writers.
Only in a couple of places does White let rip with the organ, so we do not get the chance to appreciate the full capacity of the 1991 Fisk organ in the church. Organist Anne Frohbieter confidently accompanies the choir.
My main complaint about the disc is that the selection of pieces does not include any substantial ones. There are a total of 27 items, ranging in duration from 1:22 to 5:55. By the end of the disc I felt that I had been exposed to too many attractive, short pieces, that the programme was a little insubstantial. This is not to decry White’s talent; all of the music on the disc sounds attractive and useful.
It is this word ‘useful’ that is the key. With an average duration of between 2 and 3 minutes these works are ideally constructed to fit into a service. The disc displays White’s ability to produce short, melodic pieces as a useful and important part of worship. A complete sequence of these does not necessarily make a satisfactory programme, nor does it give a complete picture of White’s talent.
The CD booklet includes all the words for the pieces and a short introduction by the composer. I would have liked, however, a little more detail about the origin and usage of each item on the disc.
The music on this disc is very well sung by the choir and it makes a brilliant showcase for them. But I am not sure that the disc as a whole makes a satisfying recital. For those interested in contemporary sacred music then this disc would be excellent to dip into.
Robert Hugill

Track listing
Spirit, moving over chaos [3.50]
Comfort, comfort, ye my people [2.31]
The Apple Tree [3.09]
Adam lay y’bounden [1.37]
Conceived in the autumn [1.48]
The Kingdom of Love [2.42]
Come all my partners in distress [2.06]
Are you weary of your burden [3.12]
God is One [1.22]
Love came down at Christmas [1.40]
Sweet was the song [1.51]
Alleluia, song of gladness [2.14]
True Anointed One [3.16]
No More a Stranger or a Guest [4.44]
Memento, Domine [5.55]
As the Father Has Loved Me [2.33]
O hilarious light [3.12]
So the day dawn [2.37]
Our holy tribute, this [3.25]
A fanfare for St. Antony [2.22]
Bread of heaven [2.40]
O taste and see [1.43]
Come, pure hearts [2.17]
O Love divine [3.28]
God so loved the world [2.26]
Into the woods my Master went [2.55]
King of glory, King of Peace [2.31]


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