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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Marcus HUXLEY (b. 1949)
A Song of the Light
see end of review for track listing
The Choir of Birmingham Cathedral/Marcus Huxley (director and *organ)
Timothy Hooper (organ)
rec. 19-21 July 2010, Birmingham Cathedral. DDD
Texts included
REGENT REGCD361 [68:42]

Experience Classicsonline

Marcus Huxley has been Director of Music at Birmingham Cathedral since 1986. Much of the music included on this CD was written for the cathedral and it reveals the work of an accomplished and practical musician. I haven’t seen any scores but I would imagine that most of it is within the compass of a good and well trained church or cathedral choir, provided all four voices within the choir are equally strong.
That’s certainly the case, I’m sure, with The Shirley Service. This was written specifically for a parish choir in the Birmingham Diocese whose vicar wanted them to have some music for Evening Prayer that conformed with the then-new Common Worship prayer book, published in 2001. The result is good, accessible, tuneful music. Whether or not it’s the sort of thing that one wants to listen to in toto on a CD is another matter. Frankly, I’m not sure that the music is sufficiently distinctive for that, which isn’t to say for one moment that it isn’t a perfectly good parish music resource.
A similar thought is prompted by The Passion of our Lord according to Luke. This is a liturgical setting and lengthy passages consist of mainly unaccompanied chant-like narration either by the choir or by solo voices. I’m sure it’s effective in the context of a Holy Week liturgy but does one want to sit through twenty minutes of it in a domestic listening environment? I think perhaps not.
The other shorter items include some pleasant pieces, such as Susanni, which is, as the composer says, a “simple arrangement” of traditional German tune. It’s nice but the music doesn’t have a particularly strong profile. The pieces that form the Mass of St Henry and St Philip are more distinctive, especially the exuberant outer sections of the Gloria. Incidentally, is this the complete Mass setting or are the three movements just excerpts?
Marcus Huxley gets good responsive singing from his choir - in some pieces the treble line is sung by boys while in other piece the girl choristers have that duty. He also plays three short organ pieces himself.
I’m sorry I can’t give a more enthusiastic reception to this disc but I’m not entirely sure what is its target market. If it’s aimed at CD collectors then I don’t think the music is sufficiently distinctive when taken out of its liturgical context. On the other hand, people running good quality parish choirs could find this disc a good investment s it will alert them to some well-crafted music that they could usefully introduce to their own choirs.
John Quinn
Track listing
Psalm CL (1993) [2:58]
Magnificat (falso bordone setting for Men’s Voices) (1998) [2:58]
Nunc dimittis in A flat (upper voices) (1995) [2:04]
A Psalm of Thanksgiving (1995) [1:00]
Common Worship Evening Prayer (The Shirley Service) (2001)
Opening Responses [0:25]
Hymn: Phos Hilaron - A Song of the Light [2:03)]
Old Testament Canticle: Verses from Psalm 104 [2:19]
Psalm 124 (Proper for St Peter’s Day) [1:42]
New Testament Canticle: A Song of the Lamb [3:36]
Responsory: The Lord is my light [1:23]
Gospel Canticle: Magnificat (The Song of Mary) [3:09]
The Lord’s Prayer [1:41]
The Passion of our Lord according to Luke (2007) [20:10]
Prelude on Walsall (When came in flesh the incarnate Word) organ solo* (1975, rev. 1979) [3:40]
Susanni (2005) [2:24]
Whence is that goodly fragrance? [2:27]
Of A Rose (1977) [2:34]
Variations on This Endris Night organ solo* (1977) [3:26]
Mass of St Henry and St Philip (2005)
Gloria: (…and SUDDENLY there was ….a MULTITUDE of the HEAVENLY HOST…) [2:28]
Sanctus (as with ceaseless voice they cry…..) [1:33]
Agnus Dei (Behold the LAMB of GOD) [2:26]
Fantasy-Prelude on the Old Hundredth organ solo* (1977) [2:23]


















































































































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