I have an album that’s… different. It’s title is In the Beginning, Choral Masterpieces of the 1940’s and it comes to us from the Gloucester Cathedral Choir.
This is a 2005 release that features works by four modern composers.
Benjamin Britten is first with Rejoice in the Lamb which takes its text from a poem by Christopher Smart (1722-1771). Smart spent much of his later life in a home for the insane and produced a long, rambling and strange work.
For example: “For I will consider my cat Jeoffry. For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.”
Britten extracted parts of the writings and set them to music in a modern style.
Ildebrando Pizzetti uses a poem by his friend Gabriel d’Annuzio for the first part of his Tre Composizioni Corali and the other two parts are taken from the book of Lamentations.
Gerald Finzi was a Jewish agnostic but used the poems of Thomas Aquinas to create Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice.
Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning uses text from Genesis.
All of these are modernistic and so not like what I expected. Some of it takes getting used to but while the music is okay the voices are great. I love hearing the boys doing such complicated work. True music lovers, those who are better educated in music than I am will probably like this CD. I’m going to have to listen to it a few more times before I decide.
All of the selections are either accompanied by the organ or are voices alone.
Copland’s is the only one to use a mezzo-soprano. The Gloucester choir is impressive, both in skill and in sound. I would like to get something more traditional from them.
I stole couple of words about the choir from their web site.
The Gloucester Cathedral Choir is the successor to the boys and monks of the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter, who first sang daily worship in this magnificent building almost 1,000 years ago.
The choir sings six services each week as well as major Easter and Christmas services; it also participates each year in the Three Choirs Festival, Europe’s longest established music festival.
Gloucester Cathedral is also called the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Undivided Trinity
The cathedral has been used from 2000 as a location for filming the first, second and sixth Harry Potter films, which has generated revenue and publicity, but caused some controversy amongst those who suggest that the theme of the films was unsuitable for a church.