Bob CHILCOTT (b. 1955)
The Seeds of Stars: Choral Music by Bob Chilcott
1. The Shepherds Sing [3.37]
2. Nova! Nova! [2.51]
3. The Heart-in-Waiting [3.23]
4. Pilgrim Jesus [2.07]
5. Jesus, Springing [4.33]
6. The Rose in the Middle of Winter [2.42]
7. Lulajze, Jezuniu [3.54]
8. The Dove and the Olive Leaf [3.00]
9. Remember me [3.38]
10. Simple Pictures of Tomorrow [7.26]
11. Happy the Man [2.33]
12. Furusato: Sunayama (Sand Mountain) [2.35]
13. Furusato: Mura Matsuri (Village Festival) [1.19]
14. Furusato: Oborozukiyo (Blurred Moon) [2.29]
15. Furusato: Furusato (Homeland) [3.07]
16. Furusato: Momiji (Maple Leaves) [3.00]
17. Our Father (The Bread of Life) [3.43]
18. The Seeds of Stars [4.19]
NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir/Bob Chilcott
rec. Jan Kaczmarek Concert Hall, Radio Wroclaw, Poland, 21-22 January 2012
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD311 [60:06]
Anyone who knows the name of Bob Chilcott will know that it carries with it the promise of the highest quality in choral music. The compositions of this former King’s Singer are unashamedly tonal, relying on great tunes and beautiful textures for their effect. He has a sound that is clean, transparent, quite Romantic, and very popular. His compositions are already beloved of choral societies the length and breadth of the UK and, as I learnt from this disc, from much further afield as well. This disc gathers together a range of Chilcott’s works sung by Poland’s Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir, recently mentored and made famous on these shores by Paul McCreesh, not least through their recordings of Elijah and Berlioz’s Requiem. The combination of Chilcott’s music and the Wroclaw choral sound makes for a very special disc which is sure to attract any lovers of beautiful music well sung.
The first seven tracks are all songs for Christmas or Advent, and wonderful they are too. Three of them showcase Chilcott’s affinity with the poetry of Kevin Crossley-Holland. The Heart-in-Waiting matches the long line of the poem to some warmly expressive vocal writing. Pilgrim Jesus is lively and vigorous, as is the sparky Nova! Nova! which is to a traditional text. However, the finest Crossley-Holland setting, and perhaps the finest thing on the disc, is the beautiful Jesus, Springing, an archingly beautiful expression of the poet’s meditation on Christ’s birth. Lulajze, Jezuniu is a gorgeous Polish lullaby, and The Shepherds Sing is a great way to open the disc, combining the choir and soprano soloist with a piano and a haunting saxophone solo.
After the Christmas tracks the fare is more varied in style but just as appealing. There are slightly unusual pieces, such as a setting of the Lord’s Prayer and a Hebrew and English setting of Genesis 8:11, describing the dove returning to Noah’s Ark. Simple Pictures of Tomorrow is a fairly serious setting of a translated poem by Paul Eluard. Happy the Man sets Dryden’s ode to opportunism in a gentle, reflective manner that lives up to the optimism of the words. The five songs of Furusato are Japanese songs, written for the Kyoto Echo Choir. These attractively combine Japanese melodies with western harmonies. The title track marries a direct vocal line with a sparkling piano accompaniment. Most interesting for me, however, was the setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem of bereavement, Remember Me. It’s a poem which I’ve always thought of as rather sombre, but Chilcott’s setting makes its sentiments seem more upbeat and hopeful - less of a lament and more of a celebration of the one lost.
The singing of the Wroclaw choir is excellent throughout, creating a warm, responsive sound that is harmonious and tightly knit. Some may want more daylight between the notes, but I loved the lush texture of their singing. They are captured beautifully in this acoustic, blending very well with the occasional accompanying instruments. Only in the solo singing can you detect the occasional accent to the language. With Chilcott himself at the helm, this disc is sure to appeal, and not just for Christmas. The booklet contains a note from the composer, as well as the sung texts and, where appropriate, translations into English.
Excellent singing captured beautifully … sure to appeal, and not just for Christmas.