Adrian MUNSEY (b 1947)
Faraway Place [4:08]
Waiting [2:37]
The Star Who Fell from Grace [4:18]
The Right Words [2:32]
Hymn to Muscle Shoals [3:27]
Voice of an Angel [3:02]
Beautiful Earth [3:36]
Real Love [4:13]
Christmas Time [2:57]
Voice of an Angel [4:06]
I’ve Been Praying [2:42]
Faraway Place [3:18]
The Star Who Fell from Grace [3:55]
Song for a Young Child [3:19]
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Honor Blackman (actress), Jane Alexander and Will Martin (vocalists), Blake, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Saint Joseph’s Youth Choir, Treorchy Male Choir, Muscle Shoals Horns and Rhythm Section, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Gareth Williams
rec. 2008-2010, London, Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Prague. DDD  
What appeals to me about Adrian Munsey’s music is that he has found a voice which, successfully, merges a classical sensibility with the popular vernacular. This allows him to create perfectly polished little gems which, invariably, touch the heart. He’s not a profound composer, but, like John Rutter in his smaller choral and instrumental pieces, he achieves immediate communication. Unlike Rutter, I doubt that Munsey will ever write a large-scale Requiem or some similar such composition, but that isn’t Munsey’s style. He has written a work called Requiem (see review) but it is not as you might expect, being five minutes in duration, and for solo violin and small orchestra. I must say that I would welcome an ambitious extended work in this vein for he could challenge Karl Jenkins on his choral ground.
These fourteen tracks are easily approachable. Harmonically there’s nothing which will scare the horses, but that isn’t important. Munsey simply says what he has to say, and then ends. Nothing outstays its welcome, and this is good because they each leave you wanting just that little bit more. His lyricism is boundless. Each track is graced with a well thought out theme which is expertly exploited, as he develops his ideas. There’s a real variety too. The programme has been nicely conceived, and what a lovely and mixed collection it is. For instance, Faraway Place has a lovely quasi-Gaelic accompaniment, is quite atmospheric, and receives a fine performance from Will Martin. On its reappearance as a choral work, the Treorchy Choir give it a marvellously big treatment. The Star Who Fell from Grace is a melancholy reverie by the eponymous heroine about her failure. It never descends into bathos, indeed, pathos is satisfyingly achieved here. Jane Alexander does it well, but when it receives a second performance, from Honor Blackman, it takes on a new feel - it’s wistful, tragic, reminiscent of Glynis Johns performing Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. Christmas Time is a much better version of the kind of maudlin popular song Don’t They Know it’s Christmas and is much more deeply felt and meant.
Overall, the performances are excellent, the singers in full control of their voices, the sound is bright and clear and the booklet contains full texts. This is a delight and is most welcome in these days of winter and rough weather.
Bob Briggs
This is a delight and is most welcome.