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The Soul Rests Eternal
See end of review for track-listing
Caroline Dale (cello)
Mike Smith (percussion) *
English Chamber Orchestra/Steve Sidwell
rec. no details supplied

Mike Sheppard is a music publisher and producer who dabbled in composition as a hobby. Following the death of a family member and experiencing a near-death experience himself in 2009, he decided to follow a life’s dream and take composition seriously. This does sound a little bit like the plotline of a bad movie, but as the old saw goes “life is stranger than fiction”.
The result is this collection of fourteen short pieces for cello and orchestra, connected by the theme of bereavement. That might give the impression of nearly an hour’s worth of bleak, sad and slow music, which is not the case. While most is relatively slow, it is not bleak or sad, more reflective and in some cases, gently optimistic.
Now for those of you who prefer contemporary classical music to have an edge, I can probably suggest that you can stop reading now. This is not complex music; it is very filmic, full of melody but not challenging in any way. If you enjoy the music of Karl Jenkins and Jon Lord, then this will work for you.
The most distinctive pieces are Soliloquoy (the composer’s spelling) for solo cello, Ripples, jazz-inflected for cello and percussion and Ellie’s Theme.
The best writing is unquestionably for the cello; Caroline Dale does an outstanding job of making more of this music than there really is. I had not heard of her before this, but her pedigree is unquestionable: a student of Pierre Fournier, finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 13, an Isserlis Scholarship at 15. She has featured in a number of soundtracks, the most significant perhaps was Hilary and Jackie, the biopic of Jacqueline du Pré. She deserves more recognition and her own recording of the Elgar.
Describing this as soothing background music would seem to be denigrating it, but that is not my intention. I enjoyed it for what it is, and also for what it is not.
David Barker
Prologue [2.31]
Elegy for a Lost Son [4.16]
Artemis & Orion [3.50]
Despite the Falling Snow [3.27]
Soliloquoy [3.06]
Lullaby [3.59]
The Soul Rests Eternal [5.28]
Tintinnabulum [4.28]*
A Remark You Made [4.45]
Hymnus [3.59]
Ripples [4.04]*
An Ordinary Tuesday [4.17]
Ellie’s Theme [5.07]
Epilogue [2.13]