All the ends of the Earth

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Anonymous,Bayan Northcott,Gabriel Jackson,James Weeks,John Dunstable
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Contemporary and Medieval Vocal Music by Weir, Weeks, Northcott, Finnissy, Dunstaple, Holloway, Harvey, Jackson and Anonymous
PERFORMER: William Towers (countertenor); Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber


‘The vibrant relationship between contemporary sacred British choral music and the music of the medieval era’ is what this disc sets out to celebrate, and Judith Weir’s All the Ends of the Earth, the opening selection, vividly illustrates that particular symbiosis. Quotation of Pérotin’s cantus firmus by men’s voices provides a bedrock for newly composed embellishments (altos and sopranos), freshly delivered here by the Gonville & Caius upper voices. Harp and light percussion add deft punctuation, stapling vocal and temporal interactions together into something truly distinctive.


Other highlights include a fascinatingly spare Kyrie from the Winchester Troper (the earliest substantial collection of written music for more than one part), and an arresting application of its principles in James Weeks’ Sint lumbi from 1000 years later. On a broader scale Gabriel Jackson’s 2004 setting of the 14th-century text Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury weaves threads of medieval allusion within a convincingly modern structural framework. With works by Bayan Northcott, Michael Finnissy, Robin Holloway and Jonathan Harvey, it’s an interesting programme, performed with a brightness of timbre and attack sometimes missing among fully professional exponents. Terry Blain