Come out Lazar - The shorter choral works of Paul Spicer
Love is Beautiful Indeed [3:24]
His Heart's Desire [2:59]
Glory be to God for Dappled Things (Pied Beauty) [5.28]
Stars, I have seen them fall [2:07]
There is no Rose of such Virtue [2:46]
In a field as I lay [2:26]
This Child of God [3:14]
Prayer of St Cuthbert [5:17]
Come out, Lazar [7:24]
A Grace: Inscription in a Monastic Refectory [3.17]
Let the Mount Sion Rejoice [4:27]
How Love Bleeds (Four Carols for Dark Times):
Christmas [2:43]
Nativity [2:02]
Carol [1:09]
Festival [2:00]
Alive [5:50]
Drop, Drop Slow Tears [3.23]
Michael, The Great Prince, shall Arise [3:57]
The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge/Sarah MacDonald
Claire Innes-Hopkins (organ)
rec. Chapel of Selwyn College, Cambridge, 11-12 January 2008. DDD
REGENT REGCD280 [63:59]

An impressive disc from Regent, this comprises the shorter choral works of the English composer, conductor and scholar, Paul Spicer. Spicer’s work, although audibly of the late twentieth/early twenty-first century, is nevertheless very much based in the English choral tradition. It contains hints of other composers ranging from Vaughan Williams to Howells and Britten. This tradition is particularly redolent in the first work on the disc, Love is Beautiful Indeed. This passionate little piece was composed for the wedding of friends of the composer, and has lush, almost Delian chords, and a gorgeously tranquil ending. It is followed by His Heart's Desire, a simple, gentle and beautiful anthem, and then the exuberant Glory be to God for Dappled Things, a setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins's much-loved poem Pied Beauty. There is no Rose of such Virtue and the tender In a field as I lay are both early works, carols written whilst the composer was still a student at the Royal College of Music. The former, a very beautiful unaccompanied setting of the 15th century anonymous poem lauding the Virgin Mary was composed for Herbert Howells’ 80th birthday. This Child of God is another carol, with a lovely rocking accompaniment, and the Prayer of St Cuthbert, which follows, has a tremendous sense of peace, calm and spirituality. The anthem Come out, Lazar is the most substantial work on the disc - a dramatic, and almost apocalyptic piece setting more mediaeval poetry - an anonymous 14th century English text. The ensuing A Grace: Inscription in a Monastic Refectory takes its text from Helen Waddell’s translations of mediaeval Latin poetry - as beloved by other composers, including Holst and Howells - and is a successful blend of past and present. In his sincere and intense version of Drop, Drop Slow Tears, Spicer nods to Orlando Gibbons’ setting of this powerful poem. The disc concludes with Michael, The Great Prince, shall Arise. The influence of Howells is very strong here, a stimulus gladly acknowledged by the composer, who notes that this is one of his most deeply-felt works.

All the works featured here are given superb performances by the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge under Sarah MacDonald’s incisive direction. The performances combine passion with ability - the choir clearly responds well to these interesting and accessible pieces. An excellent example of how English composers can still write within that glorious tradition set by Parry, Stanford, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Finzi and yet have their own voice set within their own time.

Em Marshall