LUDFORD Missa Dominica
Ludford’s Lady Masses stand apart from his more widely recorded Festal Masses for their alternatim settings and unusual three-part scoring. For this recording, composer and musicologist Graham Lack has realised an organ part through faburden and extempore accompaniment techniques that allows Missa Dominica to be sung by boys and tenors. Alternate verses are sung to Sarum chant.
Trinity Boys Choir have an incredibly warm sound, and one is charmed by the beauty of their collective tone as much as by the individuality of the solo voices, ranging from the older, confident trebles to younger, fragile, naive voices. Listeners who enjoy the English choral tradition will certainly find this disc full of delightful singing. Beauty they have in abundance, but musical thrust and engagement is less evident. This performance tends towards ethereal wafting rather than purposeful phrasing. Ludford, I feel, demands much more of the latter and as such I prefer a brisker performance with more ‘bite’ to the sound such as can be found from Ensemble Scandicus. This is also the case with the medieval carols, There is no rose of swych vertu being tender but slightly pedestrian.
Having said that, the singing is more engaged and energetic in the newer works: Graham Lack’s Candlemas – a wonderfully atmospheric meditation using voices, handbells and organ – and Leighton’s setting of The Lord is my shepherd. Throughout the disc, the contribution of the handbell choir is a joyful and festive presence. I particularly enjoyed the contrast of the brilliant, bright bells with the smooth, ethereal boys’ voices in the Communio ‘Beata viscera’. The approach to polyphony here may be too gentle for my taste but it is wonderful to hear boys’ voices singing with such beauty of tone.