All Things are Quite Silent: Choral Delights from Pembroke

All Things are Quite Silent: Choral Delights from Pembroke

Anna Lapwood is clearly quite a musician. Most recently, her appraisal of David Goode's complete Bach organ works on Signum for BBC Radio 3 was a tour de force of in-depth knowledge, clarity of thought and sound judgement. Here she is, also on Signum, with her choruses (Pembroke College, Cambridge's Chapel Choir and Pembroke Chapel Girls' Choir): the disc was recorded just one year after the founding of the Girls' Choir.

We're continuing our  explorations here with some gems of the choral repertoire. But not just any gems: in a laudable project to give credit where credit is due to female composers of choral music, Lapwood has been including at least one piece by a female composer in every service at Pembroke. The ratio on this disc is that 11 out of the 15 composers are female.

The title track is the first up, a traditional song of losing a loved one at sea, an arrangement by Kerry Andrew that includes  sounds of the sea created by the choristers:

Kerry Andrew: All Things are Quite Silent

It is not the only piece here that invokes Nature: And the Swallow by Caroline Shaw (who we met recently on Classical Explorer on the Calidore Quartet's Babel disc) sets Psalm 84 and ends with an invocation of Autumn rain. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, the piece has a yearning for a homeland at its heart:

Caroline Shaw: And the Swallow

Elizabeth Poston's  well-known Jesus Christ the Apple Tree needs no introduction, the generous acoustic of Pembroke College Chapel offering full support (the disc also includes Poston's lesser-known The Water of Tyne). But how fascinating to hear an offering by Lapwood herself, O Nata Lux, originally for male voices and arranged by the composer for this recording for full choir:

Lapwood: O Nata Lux

I have long been a fan of Amy Beach's music, an American composer who is known for both orchestral and piano music in particular (her first symphony was the first work of that genre to be published by an American woman). Her Peace I leave with you is  an example of shining simplicity, in what might be possibly described as "radiant hymnody"; Eleanor Daley's Grandmother Moon is more tangy harmonically, so the two complement each other wonderfully as we move to our own time. Let's hear them, as on the album, right next to each other:

Amy Beach: Peace I Leave With You
Eleanor Daley: Grandmother Moon

(the above is a purchase link to the download of the Beach alone).

Any Beach and Rebecca Clarke are sometimes spoken of in the same breath. A pupil of Stanford (remember our ongoing series of articles on the Stanford String Quartets here on Classical Explorer: here  and here), her Palestrina-influenced Ave Maria is a joy (and listen to the fine tuning of the choir here):

Rebecca Clarke: Ave Maria

I loved the Gesualdo Six's concert that formed part of the Live in London series hosted by VOCES8 (review here), a concert that included Rheinberger's luscious Abendlied. Here is the Lapwood performance, crepuscularly aglow:

Rheinberger: Abendlied

Finally, not on the disc but a a bit of Christmas fun from last year, filmed for the BBC's Electioncast, a reworking of Ding dong merrily on high:

All Things are Quite Silent is a simply lovely disc. There's a warm glow, there, too, which reminds us that Christmas is just around the corner ...