One Day Fine
Composed in 1933, Moeran’s Songs of Springtime is a superb example of the kind of unaccompanied secular choral writing at which British composers excelled in the days before a desire to challenge both listener and performer overrode directness of expression. Revealing both love of and respect for the texts – in this case seven poems from six Elizabethan writers (Shakespeare gets two bites at the cherry) – Moeran’s settings, with their subtle rhythmic vitality and bittersweet harmonies, are enchantingly conveyed by this extremely capable 18-voice choir. Those two bastions of a cappella
Irish secular music, Stanford’s The Blue Bird and Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry, receive equally warm and affectionate performances, although a larger body of voices would probably have afforded greater depth of tone for the Grainger. Sitting a little incongruously in the programme is the anonymous 14th-century sequence in praise of St Patrick Laeta lux, but it does provide an opportunity to sample the singers’ remarkable purity of tone.
Paul Hillier took over the reins of this choir in 2008 and has already established those hallmarks which seem to distinguish any choir under his direction: economy of means, vocal freshness, clarity of articulation and a reserve of collective virtuosity which is deployed only at moments of genuine need. Those moments come here in the music of Ian Wilson and Andrew Hamilton, who have tried too hard to set technical traps for the singers. The results are not entirely convincing musically, but the traps are effortlessly brushed aside in this marvellous demonstration of choral technique at its very best.