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Richard Allain: Choral Music (Nicholas)

Choir of Merton College, Oxford/Benjamin Nicholas; Alexander Little (Delphian)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Videte miraculum; The Norwich Service; Cana’s Guest; The Magi’s Gifts; The Beloved, etc
Choir of Merton College, Oxford/Benjamin Nicholas; Alexander Little (organ)
Delphian DCD 34207   64:08 mins

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Richard Allain (b1965) is admired for his choral music, much of it for church or cathedral. Working in a broadly traditional style, he explores a harmonic world of blurred but euphonious richness, the writing skilled and unfailingly effective. The biggest piece here, Videte miraculum, pays homage to Thomas Tallis and in particular to his motet of the same name: its noble structure is in no way discountenanced by comparison with the original.

The antiphon O Day-spring makes telling use of a soprano saxophone (played by Finn McEwan). Equally effective are the solo interventions by soprano (Francesca Miller) and bass (Patrick Keefe) in the Nunc dimittis from the atmospheric Norwich Service – one of Allain’s most vividly imaginative pieces. The short Cana’s Guest reveals a sure sense of natural harmonic growth, while familiar texts – A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester and God be in my head – find new life in Allain’s fresh-minted settings. These beautifully shaped performances by a finely constituted and fearless mixed choir, offer a convincing array of colour, texture and dynamics. The sound is rich and full, allowed to breathe in an ideal acoustic.

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George Hall