Patterson: Hell’s Angels; Mass of the Sea

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COMPOSERS: Patterson
LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Hell’s Angels; Mass of the Sea
PERFORMER: Helen Meyerhoff, Ann Mackay (soprano), Christopher Keyte (bass); Striking Sounds, Goldberg Quartet, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Brighton Festival Chorus, RPO/David Temple, Geoffrey Simon
Although Paul Patterson, now in his mid-fifties, began his career as a disciple of Polish modernism, his best-known work from the last three decades falls within the domain of the British choral tradition, of which his Mass of the Sea, in this 1986 RPO Records account reissued here by Deux-Elles, is a fine example.


Mixing the identity of the Latin Mass with biblical texts, and alluding appropriately to the Marian plainsong hymn ‘Ave maris stella’ (Hail, Queen of the Sea), its familiar subject matter offers topics well suited to the composer’s gift for eclectic musical illustration, though its strongest moments are achieved with broad brushstrokes, for example, the transition from turbulent Flood to the unexpectedly serene Sanctus.


In the recent Hell’s Angels, Patterson returns to his Polish principles, but without anachronism, for Ben Dunwell’s text, mixing Milton and modern America, invites the kind of choral and ensemble pandemonium familiar from the soundscapes of Penderecki and others. Again, the composer’s ear for mimesis is apt and entertaining, and the Crouch End Festival Chorus sings with vigour, though its announcement that it’s ‘gonna get high, gonna light a big one’, in the West Coast parody of the fourth movement takes some believing. Nicholas Williams