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Blessed Spirit: Music of the Soul's Journey - Clare College Choir Cambridge, Timothy Brown

Blessed Spirit: Music of the Soul's Journey - Clare College Choir Cambridge, Timothy Brown

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The theme of this album is the music of heaven and our journey to heaven. Both of these concepts, of course, can only be imagined, not objectively described. In medieval Christendom, there was a clear vision of heaven, as there was of hell, and the imagery used then by poets and artists—and by churchmen looking for carrots and sticks to subdue their flock—is still familiar today: heaven (above us) is a place where the residents sit upon clouds in white robes, and angels endlessly sing and play their harps. Hell (below us) is a burning furnace stoked by devils with horns, tails, and pitchforks to prod the lost souls who howl in eternal torment. As scientific knowledge and rationalism have advanced, so this simple vision has become blurred: contemporary theologians within the mainstream Christian tradition have tended to define heaven and hell in increasingly abstract terms, or have decided that they are no longer meaningful concepts. Paradoxically, the music inspired by the old medieval visions has never been more popular: the great Requiem settings of Mozart, Verdi, Fauré and others pack concert halls and churches the world over.
Behind this almost over-familiar repertoire of music expressive of the journey from death to life is a wealth of wonderful smaller-scale music which has, over the centuries, accompanied the church’s rites of passage and given believers a vision of the life to come. This album gathers together some of the best and most inspiring examples, intentionally drawn from different eras and traditions, some of which would not normally be found together on the same recording. Superficially William Byrd who composed Iustorum animae and the American slave who first sang Deep river have little in common: yet their longing for heaven was the same.

The programme divides into three sections, each introduced by a Gregorian chant. The first section is devoted to music of mourning and remembrance, the second moves on to thoughts of the departed soul’s destination, and the final section moves to heaven itself. The almost celestial acoustic of the the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral made a gloriously appropriate setting for this recording, which follows on from Illumina (COLCD125) and marks the second appearance on the Collegium label by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.

John Rutter

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine[1'50]Anonymous - liturgical
Reuben Thomas (bass)
Kontakion of the departed So sviatymi upokoi[3'21]Anonymous - liturgical
Selig sind die Toten[4'09]Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)
Blazhenni yazhe izbral 'Blessed are they' (No 7 of Nine Sacred Choruses)[3'33]Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Funeral Ikos Why these bitter words of the dying?[8'18]Sir John Tavener (1944-2013)

Domine Jesu Christe[3'42]Anonymous - liturgical
Reuben Thomas (bass)
O quam gloriosum[2'47]Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
Psalm 121 'Levavi oculos' – Requiem aeternam I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills[4'16]Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941)
Vanessa Huntly (soprano), Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Alexander Jupp (tenor)
The Evening Watch H159 Op 43 No 1 Farewell! I go to sleep; but when[4'58]Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Alexandra Barrett (alto), Alexander Jupp (tenor)
Steal away[3'14]Anonymous - traditional, arr. Timothy Brown (b1946)
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), John Harte (tenor)
There is an old belief (No 4 of Songs of farewell)[4'25]Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918)
O quanta qualia[3'30]Anonymous - traditional
Jonathan Saunders (bass)
Iustorum animae[2'50]William Byrd (1539/40-1623)
Deep river[3'28]Anonymous - traditional, arr. Norman Luboff (1917-1987)
Reuben Thomas (bass)

In paradisum[1'13]Anonymous - liturgical
Reuben Thomas (bass)
O felix anima[4'41]Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Alexandra Barrett (alto)
Audivi vocem de caelo[4'00]John Sheppard (c1515-1558)
Faire is the heaven[5'28]Sir William Harris (1883-1973)

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