All Things Are Quite Silent

Pembroke College Girls’ Choir, Cambridge/Anna Lapwood, et al (Signum Classics)

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CD_SIGCD642_Lapwood

All Things Are Quite Silent
Choral Works by Beach, Poston, Tavener, Caroline Shaw, Sally Beamish, et al
Pembroke College Girls’ Choir; Chapel Choir of Pembroke College, Cambridge/Anna Lapwood
Signum Classics SIGCD642   56:46 mins

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Between directing the chapel music of Pembroke College, Cambridge, a busy diary as an organ recitalist and a burgeoning media career, Anna Lapwood isn’t one to let the grass grow under her feet. She was appointed music director at Pembroke only four years ago at the age of 21, and in 2018 established a girls’ choir to share chapel duties; their debut disc (entirely a cappella) features both ensembles.

The programme takes its title from a rearrangement by Kerry Andrew of the folksong ‘All Things are Quite Silent’, and it encapsulates the overarching mood of the disc which tends overwhelmingly to mellow, lush thoughtfulness. Rheinberger’s Abendlied is delivered with sumptuous, all-embracing delectation, and Andrew’s reworking weaves a rich choral tapestry whose threads Lapwood holds in poised equilibrium, negotiating a sure path between the simplicity of the melody and the sophistication of its setting complete with bird effects and ghostly whistles.

At a single sitting, though, across the disc the choirs’ biggest asset – a malleable, velvety smoothness – turns out to be a mixed blessing. It’s as if beauty of tone and fastidious manicure is an end in itself for Lapwood; and while the programme is engagingly eclectic in terms of its composers (the student Imogen Holst’s ‘Agnus Dei’ leaves you longing to hear the whole Mass), it feels like a segue writ large that needs more variety of tempo, mood, texture and dynamics. Those who relish a long hot soak will feel right at home. Others who favour a brisk cold shower may well struggle.

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Paul Riley