Sonoro, Neil Ferris - Passion & Polyphony

Published Monday 19th February 2018
Sonoro, Neil Ferris - Passion & Polyphony
Sonoro, Neil Ferris - Passion & Polyphony

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Resonus RES10208

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This is the debut recording by Sonoro, a new and impressive chamber choir, founded in 2016 by Neil Ferris and Michael Higgins. The name sounds, well, sonorous and the choir's tone is warm and vibrant and would, I believe, be well suited to the Orthodox music of the late Sir John Tavener. What we get is an interesting selection of sacred music that is both passionate and polyphonic from Frank Martin (1890-1974) and Sir James MacMillan (born 1959). The centrepiece is Martin's iconic "Mass For Double Choir" from 1922 although the composer was so self-critical that he refused to allow it to be performed until 1963, saying that "a personal expression of religious belief should remain secret and hidden from public opinion." Happily we are now able to hear the work which is both original and arresting and sits well with the selection of MacMillan's shorter pieces that come before and after (although with the wonders of modern technology it is easy enough to rearrange the running order if you prefer). MacMillan's considerable contribution to the choral repertoire should need no introduction but if he is a new name to you this is an excellent starting point, including as it does his popular setting of the "Miserere" from 2009 as well as some selections from his 'Strathclyde Motets'. MacMillan is a committed Roman Catholic whose faith is expressed in all his music, whether explicitly religious or what we would call secular although I suspect the composer would not recognise such a divide. The singing by choir and soloists is exemplary and Sonoro could well become yet another top ranked British choir if they can build on this outstanding debut. The recording was made at St Augustine's Church in Kilburn and the sound quality, courtesy of producer / engineer / editor Adam Binks is excellent. Listeners who enjoy contemporary choral singing or have an interest in modern composition will find much to appreciate in this collection.

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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