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Cantatas for Soprano

 

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Richard LLOYD (b. 1933)
Illumine me
The Lichfield Service (2008)
Magnificat [4:13]
Nunc dimittis [2:57]
Open my heart, illumine me (2013) [4:25]
The fairest flower (1994) 5:26
The Windows (1986) [3:29]
A Song of the Passion (1985) 4:33
Adoro te devote (1954) 2:06
Chichester Mass (1992) [11:28]
Thankful of heart for days gone by (2011) [3:17]
Adam our father (2009) [3:23]
All so still (1969) [4:40]
I wonder as I wander (1976) [4:32]
Now glad of heart (2010) [2:26]
Keep me, O Christ (2014) [3:44]
What songs are these? (1980) [4:10]
Rejoice and sing (1990) [8:54]
The Bede Singers/David Hill
Ian Shaw and Daniel Hyde (organ)
rec. 5-6 July 2014, St. John's, Upper Norwood, London
Texts included
REGENT REGCD455 [74:40]

Richard Lloyd enjoyed a distinguished career in English church music, albeit one that was curtailed by ill health which obliged him to retire early, in 1988. Formative experiences included a spell as a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral (1942-47) and studies at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was the organ scholar (1952-55). After serving as assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral (1957-66) he moved to Hereford Cathedral as Organist and Master of the Choristers (1966-74). During his time at Hereford he was three times the Director of the Three Choirs Festival when it was held in that city. He was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Durham Cathedral (1974-85) before returning to Salisbury as deputy headmaster of the Cathedral School (1985-88). Notwithstanding his early retirement he has continued to compose and he has a large portfolio of works to his name, many of them choral or organ pieces.

The distinguished choral conductor David Hill spent a period of two years as Sub Organist at Durham Cathedral during the time when Richard Lloyd was in charge of the music there. The two organists who play on this recording, Ian Shaw and Daniel Hyde, also worked with Lloyd at Durham. The Bede Singers is a group formed by David Hill for the purpose of making this recording and it comprises some former Durham Cathedral Choir members, augmented by professional singers. In fact this isn't the first time the group has recorded Lloyd's music: David Hill and the Bede Singers recorded another collection of his pieces in 2005 for Priory Records (PRCD838). I've not heard that disc but I believe there is no duplication between the two programmes; indeed, all but four of the pieces on this present disc here receive their first recordings.

The music is unfailingly accessible. Lloyd is a genuine melodist and while his harmonic language might be described as conservative it's also interesting. He is discerning in his choice of texts and it seems to me that his music invariably enhances the words. This is expertly crafted, sincere and expressive music which will grace any liturgy at which it is sung.

Open my heart, illumine me offers a good illustration of Lloyd's craftsmanship. The piece is founded on a long stream of melody and the composer is genuinely responsive to the words he has chosen. This is a completely winning piece. Even more compelling is All so still. This is a rapt setting of a poem by W Graham Robertson (1866-1938) which tells in a gentle fashion of Christ's coming. Lloyd has set these words exquisitely and with subtlety and the Bede Singers give the piece a dedicated performance. This is music that should be widely known and performed.

A Song of the Passion was written to mark the 80th birthday of Philip Radcliffe, one of Lloyd's former tutors at Cambridge. This touching Passion meditation is very beautiful and I'm at a loss to understand why this recording is the first performance of the piece. There are important alto and tenor solos in this piece and both are expertly taken.

While A Song of the Passion was written some three decades after Lloyd's time at Cambridge Adoro te devote, the earliest piece on the programme, is a product of his student days. Written for male voices it's gentle and reflective. Coming right up to date, Keep me, O Christ was written sixty years later. It is dedicated, as an expression of gratitude, to David Hill and the Bede Singers. The piece is gentle, unassuming and sincere and, to me, seems to be a wonderful way to say thank you.

Though quite a lot of the music on this disc is gentle and reflective there are some more extrovert pieces too. The Lichfield Service Magnificat, which opens mellifluously, builds to a strong doxology, during the course of which the sopranos are taken up to a top B flat. However, Lloyd resists the temptation to repeat the doxology in the Nunc dimittis and instead composes a subdued and highly effective doxology which is right in keeping with his setting of the canticle. Now glad of heart is a joyful Eastertide piece for unaccompanied choir while What songs are these? is a delightful composition for female (or high) voices and organ which the ladies of the Bede Singers deliver in a fresh, carefree way.

The recital ends with Rejoice and sing. This is the most substantial piece on the programme and its opening and closing sections are jubilant and vigorous. There's an extended central section which is calm and lyrical. This first rate anthem is an ideal piece with which to close a most rewarding programme.

I enjoyed all of this music very much indeed. My enjoyment was enhanced considerably by the splendid performances. Indeed, I find it hard to imagine that Richard Lloyd's music could receive finer advocacy. The choir is consistently excellent and the singers sound really engaged with the music. The work of Ian Shaw and Daniel Hyde at the organ is first class. Gary Cole's engineering presents the performers in very good sound. The composer himself has contributed succinct notes on each piece.

John Quinn




 




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