Harry BRAMMA(b. 1936) The Church Music of Dr. Harry Bramma Alleluya. This is the day (2009) [7:45]
The souls of the righteous (1987, rev. 2005) [3:31]
O salutaris hostia (1999) [1:42]
Tantum ergo Sacramentum (1999) [3:03]
Benedicite, omnia opera (2010) [11:11]
O salutaris hostia (2005) [1:44]
Tantum ergo Sacramentum (2005) [3:03]
It is high time to awake out of sleep [2:45]
People, look East [2:04]
God is light. A sequence for Candlemas (1982) [2:55]
I will go unto the altar of God [5;25]
I will receive the cup of salvation [4;22]
Be filled with the spirit (1989) [1:10]
The Kontakion of the Departed [3:39]
Late have I loved thee [2:52]
The Choir of All Saints, Margaret Street, London/Paul Brough.
Henry Parkes (organ)
rec. 18-19 March 2011, All Saints, Margaret Street. DDD
English Texts and Latin texts; English translations included
PRIORY PRCD1060 [58:49]
Harry Bramma has been a most influential figure in English church
music over the last five decades. His career is detailed in
the note by Nicholas Frayling that accompanies this CD, the
main points of which I’ll summarise. After studies at
Oxford University he embarked on a teaching career but his life
took a decisively different turn in 1963 when Christopher Robinson,
then the Organist of Worcester Cathedral, invited him to become
his Assistant. Two years later Bramma also became Director of
Music at the King’s School, Worcester. His work there
and at the cathedral - and that of Christopher Robinson - was
instrumental in the development of what was, by any standards,
a pretty exceptional cohort of students at the school at that
time, including Nicholas Cleobury, Stephen Cleobury, Andrew
Millington, Jonathan Nott, Adrian Partington and Geoffrey Webber,
as well as others who have also gone on to have distinguished
musical careers. Bramma went to Southwark Cathedral as Organist
and Director of Music in 1976 from whence he moved in 1989 to
become Director of the Royal School of Church Music, retiring
in 1998. It appears that his retirement has been anything but
quiet for his has continued to compose and, it seems, regularly
pops up in church organ lofts in London as a welcome guest organist.
The booklet contains a substantial list of the names of colleagues,
friends and former students who have helped to underwrite the
production of this disc; the list in itself speaks volumes for
Bramma’s beneficial influence.
During his period as Director of the RSCM Bramma served as Organist
and Director of Music of All Saints, Margaret Street, believing
strongly that someone in his position at the RSCM ought to have
regular involvement in church music at the “sharp end”:
what a wise thought! So it’s highly appropriate that his
former choir should have been the one to record this selection
of his church music. In fact no less than seven of the pieces
in this programme were composed for the choir while three more
were written for the choir of Southwark Cathedral.
The music included here was all written between 1982 and 2010.
It is, without exception, very well crafted and falls pleasingly
on the ear. Bramma clearly has deep experience and understanding
of church choirs and their role in the liturgy. Moreover, it’s
evident that he has a fine feel for the import of words in the
liturgy. There is a discriminating choice of texts in the programme
of this CD. I was struck also by the expert way in which in
a couple of the works Bramma selected words from a number of
religious texts - mainly from scripture or hymns - and weaves
them together into a satisfying and seamless whole. Prime examples
of this facility are to be found in Alleluya. This is the
day and I will go unto the altar of God.
Among other pieces that I particularly admired was I will
receive the cup of salvation. This is primarily a setting
of a poem by St. Teresa of Avila and it’s lovely. I was
equally impressed by The souls of the righteous. The
words, from the Book of Wisdom, are wonderful and Bramma responds
to them with eloquent music. The Benedicite was written for
inclusion on this disc. The canticle is extensive and varied
in its imagery and it’s a challenge for a composer to
let his music move, as it were, with the frequently changing
images. It seems to me that Bramma’s music reflects the
varying aspects of this exhortation to praise very successfully.
Some of the choral writing sounds pretty challenging - without
access to scores and relying on the ear alone, I fancy this
may be the most difficult piece to master on the disc but Paul
Brough’s well-schooled choir surmounts all its difficulties
with seeming ease.
Most of the pieces include organ accompaniment. One that doesn’t,
unsurprisingly, is TheKontakion of the Departed,
Bramma’s own arrangement for mixed choir of Kiev chant.
Another a cappella setting is It is high time to awake
out of sleep, an Advent introit. Here Bramma manages to
reflect the prayer’s movement from darkness towards the
light most effectively in a short space of time.
Late have I loved thee, a gently radiant setting of well-known
words of St. Augustine, makes a very satisfying conclusion to
The choir is not large - 4 sopranos, two altos, 2 tenors and
three basses - but they sing well and sensitively. When required
to do so - for example, towards the end of Alleluya. This
isthe day - they can produce a good body of sound.
Paul Brough, a highly experienced choral conductor, has clearly
trained them well. Henry Parkes plays the church’s four-manual
Harrison & Harrison organ. The instrument was installed
in 1910 though I believe it has undergone some re-modelling
over the years. It’s clearly a fine organ and Parkes makes
the most of its resources. All Saints is a Victorian Gothic
church completed in 1859. I don’t know how large it is
but this recording suggests it has good acoustics; the sound
is very good.
This CD is a fine tribute to an influential figure in the recent
story of English church music. All the music on it was new to
me but I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to discover
it in these excellent recordings.
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