Gibbons, Machaut, Sheppard, Howells, Dlamini, Seoketsa

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dlamini,Gibbons,Howells,Machaut,Seoketsa,Sheppard
LABELS: Erato Detour
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Simunye
WORKS: Works by Gibbons, Machaut, Sheppard, Howells, Dlamini, Seoketsa,
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini, Sdasa Chorale
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-18837-2
This disc charts a unique collaboration between two successful young singing groups, one English and one South African. As such it is both an exchange and melding of genres, and a document reflecting two weeks of cultural co-operation. The performers’ hearts are in it, and that comes through. Each group shines in its individual genre: the African singers are wholly at ease with gospel singing; I Fagiolini contains some of the most capable young singers around today (and they can whoop, too).

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One or two tracks stand out: Carys Lane’s unaccompanied Cornish folk tune, ‘The trees they do grow high’, the African chorale’s witty Zulu folksong ‘Kwa zulu senzeni’, the delicate crooning of ‘Kingdom come’. Sometimes the merged voices tend to dilute both individualities; a few arrangements lack imagination, while the worst stultify both idioms: Roderick Williams’s variant on Gibbons’s ‘O Clap Your Hands’ is a duff idea transformed into massacre – better relish him in I Fagiolini’s exquisite male-voice opening to ‘Ah, Robin’. Bheka Dlamini seems the shrewdest of the arrangers. Mokale Koapeng’s response to ‘Te lucis ante terminum’ fares well too.

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Some of these workshop chippings needed further chiselling. But the warmth and joy are tangible: it is an entertaining, spirited, humane exercise in crossover, worship and reconciliation. Roderic Dunnett