Ben Ponniah, Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Sarah MacDonald - Marvellous Light: Choral Works Of Ben Ponniah

Published Tuesday 21st November 2017
Ben Ponniah, Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Sarah MacDonald - Marvellous Light: Choral Works Of Ben Ponniah
Ben Ponniah, Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, Sarah MacDonald  - Marvellous Light: Choral Works Of Ben Ponniah

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 167956-
LABEL: Regent REGCD495
FORMAT: CD Album
ITEMS: 1

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

The Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge under the direction of Sarah MacDonald are fast becoming national treasures with their continuing series of discs highlighting young British composers. With Ben Ponniah we meet another exciting new and distinctive voice in the world of choral composition. His musical journey began as a chorister at St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich and he began composing in 2007 during a post-postgraduate gap year. At the core of his music is his own personal journey with faith, his love of the natural world and his training as a singer and a jazz pianist. The choir is in top form throughout which allows us to concentrate on the composition safe in the knowledge that what we hear is what he intended. Throughout the programme the texts take precedence which is as it should be. In this respect Ponniah has the same happy knack as another Suffolk composer, Benjamin Britten, in finding interesting words and letting them speak though his music. However Ponniah's musical voice is much closer to the sacred minimalists, such as Part and Tavener. Indeed track two, "A Hymn To The Mother Of God" was written in 2014 shortly after the death of Sir John and takes words from the Orthodox Liturgy of St Basil in a way that reminds us of Tavener without descending into pastiche. The two other pieces in the opening triptych of "Three Marian/Christmas Anthems" take well known texts, "Ave Maria" and "O Magnum Mysterium" and take them in pleasantly unexpected directions. They are followed by "Four Lenten Anthems" and "Four Evening Anthems", all worth hearing and, for those involved in leading choral worship, worthy contenders to be included in your choir's repertoire. The closing "Requiem In Blue" leaves us wanting more. Ponniah clearly has a love of jazz and here his music combines the harmonic richness and colour of Poulenc and early Messiaen, with elements of Latin American and jazz to produce a heady mixture of sensual and exotic choral textures, but all with a natural flair for writing for voices. It shouldn't work but it does and with the assured singing of the choir this is a joy to hear. We look forward to hearing much more from Ben Ponniah in the future.

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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