The booklet is confusing. It reveals nothing about Trinity Boys Choir or their conductor, prints a curious essay describing Durham Cathedral by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who then goes on to identify the origins of numerous sacred texts that do not feature in the musical settings, and then details the music in a different order to that in which it appears in the recording.
The focus of the recording is the Herz-Jesu-Kirche in Munich and its stunning Woehl organ. We hear a tiny solo from that organ in a brief improvisation by Lewis Brito-Babapulle but its true glories are demonstrated in lavish organ parts to several of these contemporary British choral works, notably Howard Moody’s Weigh me the fire and Judith Weir’s ‘Love bade me welcome’.
The musical centrepiece and, according to the booklet notes, the very raison d’être of this recording is Graham Lack’s seven-section Refugium. Described as being scored for three separate ‘islands’ of percussion with choir and organ, this is a masterly piece of writing which achieves extraordinary effect, greatly helped by this truly outstanding performance. David Swinson’s measured approach gives ample space for the unique instrumental forces while judiciously shepherding his choir’s reserves – the recording was made live and there are moments where a certain collective exhaustion makes its presence felt. This is a taxing work for all concerned but minor imperfections do not in any way detract from its intense beauty. Among the most enchanting moments are the lovely dialogue between organ and glockenspiel in ‘Fede e realtà’ and the profoundly lovely choral chords over glittering organ and bells in ‘Respice quod salvant’.
Effective as Refugium is, the outstanding performance on the disc has to be a riveting account of Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars, while the most musically arresting is Tom Harrold’s From Dreams for three part boys’ choir and marimba – a combination which works extraordinarily well in this highly atmospheric and spiritually charged recording.