Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
As one of Britain's most respected and versatile musicians, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett has produced over 200 works for the concert hall and 50 scores for film and television, as well as having been a writer and performer of jazz songs for many years. This disc of compositions and arrangements performed by the BBC Singers under Paul Brough showcases some of his most popular and beguiling works for choir and voice, several of which will be of interest to readers of this website. The title track is probably RRB's best known Christian composition and there are several other pieces along similar lines, such as "The Apple Tree" (sometimes known as "Jesus Christ The Apple Tree"). Bennett has a gift for finding and setting interesting texts and although most on this disc are not explicitly Christian all are worth hearing and the singing, all a cappella, by The BBC Singers, is excellent. A highlight for this reviewer is Bennett's setting of "Four Poems Of Thomas Campion", an interesting figure who lived from 1567-1620 and who is probably best remembered for "Never Weather-Beaten Sail". Also included is "A Good-Night", a setting of prose by the 17th-century writer Frances Quaries that was Sir Richard's contribution to 'A Garland For Linda', a tribute in memory of Linda McCartney. The closing sequence is particularly interesting, being arrangements of the Gershwin brothers' witty "By Straus", Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" and Cole Porter's moving "Every Time We Say Goodbye". It may seem like a back-handed compliment to pick arrangements of other composers' work as my standout pieces, but these three are absolute masters of the popular song and when I say that Bennett's arrangements improve upon the originals, in particular turning Porter's ode to lost love into something close to a hymn, I hope you see what I mean. This is a good introduction to an interesting contemporary composer, a fine showcase for a top choir but, perhaps, the content is less compelling for those looking for Christian choral music.
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