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Voice of the Soul Hildegard von BINGEN (1098-1179)
O Viridissima Virga [4:12] David CHILDS (b.1969)
Salve Regina [4:16] Pukaea [0:40] Morten LAURIDSEN (b.1943)
Six Fire Madrigals [20:15] Purerehua [0:37] Helen FISHER (b.1942)
Pounamu [8:20] Poiawhiowhio, karanga manu Christopher MARSHALL (b.1956)
Horizon 1 (Sea and Sky) [2:00] Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1975)
Five Flower Songs [11.30] David HAMILTON (b.1955)
Karakia of the Stars [6:34] Purerehua [1:05]
Pepe Becker (soprano), Amanda Barclay (soprano), Victoria Chammanee (soprano), Jeffrey Chang (tenor), Horomona Horo (taonga pūoro)
Voices 16 from New Zealand Chamber Choir/Karen Grylls
rec. 2013, Kenneth Myer’s Centre, Auckland University, New Zealand. ATOLL ACD213 [61:00]
This enterprising CD contains a range of choral music with Maori instruments accompanying. The first thing to say is that the accompanying booklet is extensive with details of all the pieces and the texts in English. It is clearly laid out in large print with attractive pictures of the instruments. The notes on the works are by conductor Karen Grylls who explains the concept of the recital, Voice of the Soul being, in her words, a metaphor for a journey that, for the listener, is like walking around a gallery with musical rather than visual exhibits.
The strange sound of the taonga pūoro (Maori instruments) begins O Viridissima Virga before the plainchant emerges and the two sounds interweave most effectively. I warmed to David Childs' setting of the Salve Regina that is followed slightly jarringly by the taonga pūoro before the choir launch into the substantial Six Fire Madrigals. I’ve liked what I’ve heard of Morten Lauridsen before and enjoyed these settings of Renaissance texts about love, passionate, unrequited, won and lost. Here one should praise the delicacy of the choir and how well engineer Paul McGlashan captures them. The acoustic is spot-on. I would have liked the Latin words as well as the English translation in these works although in Quando Son Piu Lontan it’s fairly easy to follow with allusions to flames alonmg the way. These Madrigals vary in tempo with the up-tempo Amor, lo Sento L’alma (Oh, love, I feel my soul) followed by the plaintive Io Piango (I’m weeping for the grief) and are very effective.
Pounamu by New Zealander Helen Fisher is an interesting combination of words based on a Tainui Whatatauki (proverb) (May the calm be widespread). This, together with Christopher Marshall’s Horizon 1 (Sea and Sky) is atmospheric but I’m not sure if I warm to them. Britten’s Five Flower Songs follow and are proficiently sung, particularly The succession of four sweet months set to words by Robert Herrick. They illustrate the considerable strength of this choral ensemble even if at times I would have liked more passion. The recital, or exhibition, ends with Karakia of the Stars by David Hamilton, which has a variety of bells representing constellations. These sounds are followed by the choir and some Maori instruments before a central haka invoking the Maori New Year. It's an atmospheric piece and is followed by Purerehua, the final sound of the taonga pūoro slowly retreating.
This is an unusual choral CD and one that I will be pleased to return to. The standard of singing is high as is the sound and production. I’m not sure about certain pieces but as an overall programme it is a successful enterprise.