Annabel Rooney, The Choir of Christ's College, Cambridge, David Rowland - As A Seed Bursts Forth

Published Tuesday 9th July 2019
Annabel Rooney, The Choir of Christ's College, Cambridge, David Rowland - As A Seed Bursts Forth
Annabel Rooney, The Choir of Christ's College, Cambridge, David Rowland  - As A Seed Bursts Forth

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Regent REGCD525

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to Christ's College, Cambridge, and the college choir marks this anniversary with the release of the first CD devoted to the music of Christ's College alumna, Annabel Rooney. Dr Rooney read music at Christ's, with a University of Cambridge instrumental award on the cello, having previously played that instrument in the National Youth Orchestra. She continued her education at Cambridge with a Master's degree followed by a Doctorate in 18th-century opera. Since 2006 she has lived in Devonshire where she is a freelance cellist and instrumental teacher and there started to compose. Perhaps being a cellist has given Dr Rooney a good idea of how to write for the voice as the cello is considered by many to be the closest in sound and range to the human voice. So far as what she writes the easy comparison, at least to my ears, is with another Cambridge alumnus, John Rutter. Both write tuneful music that choirs like to sing and audiences to hear and, where appropriate, worshippers find uplifting. Both are deceptively simple (as simple music is difficult to write) and allow their well-chosen texts to shape the music, rather than forcing the words to fit within a predetermined tune. As this is a debut collection there are, perhaps, some early attempts that in years to come will need to be revised but without wishing to sound patronising, this is a very good first attempt helped in no small way by the outstanding singing from the Choir of Christ's College under David Rowland. The two different settings of the Latin Evening Service are both well done and should be of interest to many choir directors, as would be the Christmas pieces "Sweet Was The Song The Virgin Sang" and "Gaudete". The settings of "The Lord's Prayer" from Matthew 6 and "Be Still, And Know That I Am God" (Psalm 46:10) are both well done but may not supplant more established versions. I would struggle to pick a standout piece as while all are well written and worth hearing they are all perhaps a little much of a muchness and in the first draft of this review the words "nice" and "pleasant" kept recurring where I think Annabel Rooney deserves more. "Round Me Falls The Night" with words by William Romanis (1824-1899) would be the one that I would offer as the showpiece but that is just one of 21 and listeners with an interest in contemporary choral music should get much from this pleasant first collection.

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