A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation

McCreesh’s singers in British music of mourning and loss

Author: 
Richard Lawrence

A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation

  • Into Thy Hands
  • They are at rest
  • Drop, drop slow tears
  • Requiem
  • (A) Child's Prayer
  • Funeral sentences
  • (6) Songs of Farewell, No. 6, Lord, let me know mine end
  • In manus tuas I
  • (A) Litany, 'Drop, drop slow tears'
  • Christe qui lux es

Any disc subtitled ‘Music of Mourning & Consolation’ is not going to be a bundle of laughs. But Paul McCreesh has devised such a satisfying programme of mostly short a cappella pieces that the effect is the reverse of depressing. Gibbons would not have approved of the English Hymnal’s truncation of his joyful ‘song’ to fit different (albeit contemporary) words; but he might still have been moved by the slow, prayerful performance given here. It’s followed by Walton’s setting of the same verses, with its haunting two-note phrases and a final cadence almost worthy of Howells.

And it’s Howells who makes the most substantial contribution to the disc. The Requiem was written for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1932 but not released for performance till 1980. Much of the second movement, a setting of Psalm 23, is a choral recitative. After a solo passage for three voices, sweetly sung by Charlotte Mobbs, Kim Porter and Richard Butler, the choir enters pianissimo. McCreesh handles the subsequent crescendo at ‘I will fear no evil’ quite magically. Psalm 121, similar in conception, is followed by the second ‘Requiem aeternam’, sung with intensity.

McCreesh finds equal poignancy in MacMillan’s A Child’s Prayer. If the last of Parry’s Songs of Farewell doesn’t quite match Richard Marlow’s performance (Conifer, 9/87 – nla), that is partly due to the over-reverberant acoustic of the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral. An excellent disc, all the same.

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