Benenden Chapel Choir, Edward Whiting - Make We Merry

Published Tuesday 26th November 2019
Benenden Chapel Choir, Edward Whiting - Make We Merry
Benenden Chapel Choir, Edward Whiting  - Make We Merry

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Regent REGCD547

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This release is an eclectic mix of interesting and distinctive new Christmas music for upper voices by three prominent and admired composers of choral music. The longest work at just over half an hour is the first recording of David Bednall's cycle of eight carols: "Make We Merry" for upper voices, brass, percussion and organ, which was commissioned for Benenden Chapel Choir and first performed by them in 2018. Of the three works this - or at least parts of it - is most likely to be performed at a church service. The standout for me is the setting of G K Chesterton's "The Christ-Child Lay On Mary's Lap" with a deceptively simple melody. Throughout the eight parts of "Make We Merry" the London Metropolitan Brass add to the occasion without overwhelming the choir and the percussion from Kizzy Brooks is also noteworthy. The eight songs share repeated musical motifs as well as the common theme of celebrating the birth of the Christ but could be sequenced in a different order to suit and each is strong enough to stand on its own. Choir directors and school music teachers should investigate further for future use. Also featured is the first recording of Bob Chilcott's cycle "The Midnight Of Your Birth". There cannot be many choirs that have never attempted to "do" Chilcott and here he is at his best. Like Bednall, the Chilcott section is probably more difficult to sing than it is to listen to. I found it a joy throughout with "Kindness (A Raven Flew To Bethlehem)" being the one that made the greatest impression. The words are simple and less obviously suitable for a church service but they made this listener think and the tunes are lovely. The final contribution is the first commercial recording of the complete upper-voice version of "Snow Angel" by Canadian composer Sarah Quartel. This explores themes of love, rebirth and beauty and asks the listener to see the potential in all children. The music is well worth hearing and cellist Rebecca McNaught's contribution only adds to the overall effect with the singers once more rising to the challenge. While this is not the most traditional of Christmas releases for the festive season it is one I expect to return to with pleasure in years to come.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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