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Pigs Could Fly
Howard SKEMPTON (b.1947)
Pigs could Fly (1983) [1:18]
Alice is One (1982) [1:08]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976)
Corpus Christi Carol (1934) [2:29]
Ronald CORP (b.1951)
Give to my eyes, Lord (2007) [3:52]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)
The Aviary (1965) [8:35]
John TAVENER (b.1944)
Notre Pere (1996) [2:27]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)
Dirge for Fidele (1922) [2:56]
Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (b.1934)
Shepherds of Hoy (1993) [2:07]
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955)
The lily and the rose (2003) [3:28]
Benjamin BRITTEN
May (1934) [1:21]
Ronald CORP
Flower Songs (1982) [5:57]
Arthur BLISS (1891 – 1975)
A widow bird sate mourning (1968) [2:29]
Tansy DAVIES (b.1973)
Oven in the underworld (2006) [4:15]
John WOOLRICH (b.1954)
No hiding place down there (2006) [1:03]
John RUTTER (b.1945)
For the beauty of the earth [3:20]
Ronald CORP
Spring [1:55]
Richard Rodney BENNETT
The Insect World (1965) [6:46]
Ronald CORP
At day–close in November (2004) [1:55]
Philip GODFREY (b.1964)
Day by day (1996) [1:51]
Nicholas MAW (b.1935)
Calico Pie (excerpts) (1976) [6:57]
New London Children’s Choir/Ronald Corp
Alexander Wells (piano)
rec. 11 and 24 March 2007, All Hallows Church, Savernake Road, South Hampstead, London. DDD
NAXOS 8.572113 [66:07]
Experience Classicsonline

This very enjoyable collection of fairly recent music for children’s voices is most welcome, not least because it restores to the catalogue Richard Rodney Bennett’s two small cycles from the 1960s. These works are quite delightful, ranging in style from slow and dreamy to fast and racy. Bennett, perhaps more than any other composer of recent times, has inherited Britten’s easy approachability when it comes to writing for children. He never writes down to his performers, always giving them something to work at and creating memorable tunes and harmonies. Also welcome is this recording of five, of the eleven, songs from Maw’s cycle of nonsense rhymes Calico Pie.
Tavener’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer has a Gorecki–like sheen to it, with an angelic sound in pure simple harmonies. Vaughan Williams’s Dirge for Fidele has always struck me as a rather weak setting of Fear no more the heat o’the sun; the words deserve a stronger approach, and more incisive accompaniment. No matter how good the New London Children’s Choir they cannot hide the failings of this piece. Maxwell Davies’s Shepherds of Hoy is another of his many setting of George Mackay Brown and it’s in his popular style. It could almost be another setting by VW were it not for the little quirks of melody – and it’s pleasant but rather repetitive. Bob Chilcott’s The lily and the rose is a wonderful setting of The Bailey Berith the bell away, with real mystery in the accompaniment and some gorgeous, and very effective, two part writing. It is all moulded together in a verse and chorus, pop song, style, but never resorting to the kind of banality one expects from such composition. This is a real winner.
Britten’s two contributions are well known but, even so, it came as a shock to me to hear May, after many years, and to discover it to be full of fa–la–las and a boisterous piano part! Bliss’s setting of Shelley’s poem A widow bird sate mourning strikes me as being too fussy for the simplicity of the words. It misses the tragedy and pathos which Howells found in his great setting of the same words for voice and piano.
The notes tell us that Tansy Davies’s Oven in the underworld sets a macabre poem by Jane Taylor. It’s obvious from the piano part that something not nice is happening, but as I cannot hear the words I have no idea – is it about making stew out of children? Woolrich’s No hiding place down there is real fun, full of jokes growing easily from the words and being snuffed out without ceremony. For the beauty of the earth brings a welcome change of pace. It’s typical Rutter and absolutely lovely, but I am not so sure that the piano is quite right for the accompaniment – the smooth vocal lines really call for the sustaining quality of the organ rather than the somewhat percussive piano.
Corp’s own contributions are all gratefully conceived for children’s chorus and are very enjoyable. They are all written in a simple and easy-going language which is pleasant on the ear and, no doubt, very enjoyable to sing. The real finds are the two pieces by Howard Skempton, one of this country’s most thoughtful and subtle composers; but don’t expect that from these pieces, they are both a real hoot.
As I stated at the start this is an enjoyable collection of recent pieces, and so it is, but there are a few drawbacks. First, too many of the pieces lack a really individual voice. Although this helps to highlight the really good compositions, it does lead to monotony if you want to sit through the whole CD in one go. Also, good though these performances are, and they are well rehearsed and very well executed, there is little tonal variety from the choir. This makes the ear very tired after quite a short time. This is more for those interested in the variety of work being created for children to perform rather than the general listener, and it is for dipping into, as opposed to general listening. Very good recording and notes.
Bob Briggs


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