Bob Chilcott, Choralis, Gretchen Kuhrmann - In Winter's Arms

Published Monday 30th October 2017
Bob Chilcott, Choralis, Gretchen Kuhrmann - In Winter's Arms
Bob Chilcott, Choralis, Gretchen Kuhrmann  - In Winter's Arms

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Signum SIGCD512

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Bob Chilcott's compositions are popular with choral societies around the world, and this album represents the fruits of his recent collaborations with the US choir Choralis and their conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann. Featuring festive works for choir and soloists as well as brass ensemble and harp in various combinations, the centre of the programme is "Wenceslas", inspired by the story of the 10th century Duke of Bohemia who braved the winter weather with his Page to save the life of a poor peasant, and incorporating the melody of the well-known carol into each of its eight movements. The piece uses all the forces available, namely Choralis, Cantus Primo Youth Choir, The Classical Brass Quintet, baritone James Shaffran, Todd Fickley on organ, Marian Rian Hays on harp and Julie Angelis Boehler supplying timpani. Between them they make a glorious noise and while we all know the story of "good king Wenceslas" hearing it in this lively new setting brings him to life. I am not sure how many amateur choirs could manage this and the piece would certainly not work as an audience sing-along but for this listener the 26 minutes flew past. The next three items all feature lyrics by the English poet, translator and acclaimed story-teller Kevin Crossley-Holland: "Jesus, Springing", "My Perfect Stranger" and "The Nine Gifts". All have a medieval feel to them and work well as poems but Chilcott's music brings them dancing to life. The disc closes with the first recording of Chilcott's "Gloria", which was premiered by the Choralis in 2015. Those who have followed Bob Chilcott's musical journey from the Choir of King's College, Cambridge on to the King's Singers before becoming a popular and prolific composer and arranger will find much to enjoy in the 65 minutes of this collection. Listeners who appreciate excellence in choral singing will applaud the fine work of Choralis under conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann and this reviewer would be very pleased to hear more.

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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