Mike Brewer's World Tour - National Youth Choir of Great Britain
Hamba Lulu (Zulu wedding song); Holday danaa (Bengali bird song); Molihua (China); Pueblo Sunrise Song (New Mexico); Ej lásko, lásko (Moravian folksong); Tango Cappella (Argentina); Kvölda tekur (Icelandic folksong); Meguru (Kavango song from Namibia); Tourdion (France); Izintakana (Zulu bird song); Korobushka (Russia/Ukraine); Pokarekare (Maori love song); Yelli bo'dek dhaya fikri (Tunisia); El cascabel (Mexico)
National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer
rec. details not supplied. DDD
DELPHIAN DCD34080 [68:02]
One thing you’ll notice about this disc is how enthusiastic these singers are in their powerful delivery of the songs. Every member of the choir comes across as being deeply committed to contributing to the musicality of the pieces. This energy has to come from the enthusiastic direction of their conductor, Mike Brewer. So what about the man himself? Don’t be put off by the cover. He is the leading light in the UK organisation and has been running choral workshops since 1983. He has built up a strong reputation and, as is demonstrated here, he believes in embracing different cultures. Sensitive to detail and dynamics, Brewer writes his own choral arrangements to provide impressive colour in the voices. In this recording he clearly gets the best from his well rehearsed young choristers.
The opening piece, Hamba Lulu, could well be a negro-spiritual number with its harmonic structure of separation in fourths, reminiscent of the well-known Congolese Sanctus of the 1970s. It is in fact a Zulu song of considerable energy and intensity with a five-beat rhythm. Contrastingly different is a second Zulu song called Izintakana with its authentic avian melody and seven-time rhythm. The bracing dynamics and juxtaposition of different rhythms gives a fascinating effect.
As we move from continent to continent through the disc I had hoped to guess from which particular culture and country a piece came without looking at the track numbers. There seemed to be more of a similarity between the tracks than I had expected, but whether due to the voices or arrangements I cannot decide. Molihua, however, is recognisably different and is characteristically Chinese yet it could have been taken from a Puccini opera. A love song, it is exquisite and is here endearingly sung by Hannah Campbell and Lucy Potterton. The delicate balance between the voices is superb.
A deeply moving piece is Korobushka with its resonant opening of basses and clever layers of tonality. Michael Bailey delivers a strong tenor line that contrasts well with the backing.
The modern fashion for repetitiou of sections of music - outside the remit of a canon - does creep in with some of the tracks and can lead to monotony for the listener; this is my only concern. How many times can one listen to Ravel’s Bolero, for example?
Perhaps one of the most outstanding pieces is the Tunisian Yelli bo’dek dhaya fikri, which, although it has elements of repetition, is outstanding for other reasons. Here the choir imitate an orchestral accompaniment of flute, bagpipe, reed pipe and drum. Their powers of mimicry in this ingenious arrangement are brilliant.
The unaccompanied recording is made in the flattering acoustics of Roedean (Brighton) and Leighton Park (Reading) schools under Paul Baxter’s production. The top notes are clear and the bass ones richly resonant. Little mention is made of the spread of ages of these teenagers but the sopranos have that purity associated with trebles while the basses come across as unusually mature. No doubt we owe the excellent balance to rigorous audition in the first place.
The booklet contains notes and all lyrics, but no translations. The Delphian website allows you to listen to four of the fourteen tracks.
Raymond J Walker
Enthusiasm and powerful delivery from every member of this deeply committed choir ... see Full Review