Ronald CORP (b. 1951)

Dhammapada (sravasti 1; buddham saranam gacchami; mahabodhi 1; homage; sravasti 2; dhammapada 1; kushinagar; dhammapada 2; mahabodhi 2; dhammapada 3; ting-sha; dhammapada 4; sravasti 3; dhammapada 5; sarnath; meditation on the four sublime states; sravasti 4)
Apsara/Ronald Corp
rec. 29-30 January 2010, St Albans, Holborn, UK.
World première recording.
STONE RECORDS 5060192780055 [58:04]

Stone Records now follow up their CD of Ronald Corp’s songs with this Buddhist sequence to words by Francis Booth (b. 1949). I learn from the very basic notes that the Dhammapada is ‘The Buddha’s path to truth” – a manual for living and a hand held up against materiality. The singing is alternated with tracks featuring a rich range of bells recorded by Booth at locations sacred to Buddhists. The sung texts are in English apart from the Buddham saranam gacchami (tr. 2). All the words are printed in the booklet. I had half expected the singing to be spare and even skeletal; nothing of the sort. The writing mixes white, open, aureate tones familiar from the English cathedral-pastoral tradition of Holst and Howells with Oriental shadings and profound bass notes. There is about it perhaps a touch of John Tavener – certainly it is from the same broad shelf. Ambiguous tonalities arise from deeper notes sliding and slipping like tectonic plates as they hum around the white lambent upper line. In Dhammapada 1 and 2 there’s a striking slow-motion ululating chant which evokes joy. The bell tracks are in large part ‘stopped’ and having hardly any of the luxury that surrounds resonance. The opposite applies to Sarnath, to the ringing Ting-Sha and to the deeper gong tones of Sravasti 3. In Dhammapada 4 the reverential tone is broken by the ecstatic playfulness of “The world is like a bubble on a pond” – very fast and smiling. This is a reverential but life-enhancing yet unassertive sequence that will please followers of Corp and the world’s many choirs and their audiences. It makes a fitting companion to Dutton’s Tomorrow Child CD and a contrast to the same company’s disc of Corp’s orchestral music. Let us hope that we will not have to wait long for recordings of Corp’s major choral-orchestral works.

Rob Barnett

A reverential but life-enhancing yet unassertive sequence.