Magic Lantern Tales: Songs by Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Edward Nieland, Sophie Daneman, Natlie Raybould, Verity Wingate et al (Champs Hill Records)
Frances-Hoad Magic Lantern Tales; The Thought Machine, etc
Edward Nieland (treble), Sophie Daneman, Natlie Raybould, Verity Wingate (soprano), Ann Huntley, Sinéad O’Kelley (mezzo-soprano), Collin Shay (countertenor), Nicky Spence (tenor), Mark Stone, Philip Smith (baritone); Beth Higham-Edwards (vibraphone), Anna Menzies (cello), Alisdair Hogarth, Sholto Kynoch (piano)
Champs Hill Records CHRCD146 80:24 mins
Setting poetry from Aristotle to Kate Wakeling, Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s songs are an absolute treasure-trove. Whether written for solo voice and piano, or for multiple voices and inventive instrumentation, her spare, concentrated, engaging music always offers something to intrigue the ear or touch the heart, usually both. ‘Invoke the Angels’ pays tribute to Britten’s Canticles, with specially written words by Kei Miller. There are imaginative settings of Wakeling’s texts in ‘The Thought Machine’, a snappy commentary on cyber-dating in ‘Love Bytes’ and the disc closes with a heart-shredding portrait of life with an autistic child in ‘Autistic Bedtimes’.
The album title is taken from the opening cycle on World War One poems by Ian McMillan, in which the composer follows a well-trodden English path, but with her own highly persuasive contemporary language. Tenor Nicky Spence’s singing in this cycle is outstanding, with diction paramount. Indeed, throughout the disc words and music are seamless equal partners, just as they should be, and the performers are splendidly attentive.