WORKS: Feel the Spirit; Birthday Madrigals
PERFORMER: Melanie Marshall (mezzo-soprano), Wayne Marshall (piano), Malcolm Creese (double bass); Cambridge Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra/John Rutter
CATALOGUE NO: COLCD 128
Whatever you feel about Rutter’s compositions – and I admit I’m not usually a fan – you’d have to be a real killjoy to be able to resist this disc. Its trump card is undoubtedly his new spirituals cycle Feel the Spirit, premiered in New York in June. The five central pieces – flanked by two rather predictable settings for full choir and orchestra, complete with brass fanfares – showcase Marshall’s lovely mezzo voice, rich yet focused and capable of real purity. She is particularly moving in the slow spirituals such as ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child’, but she also infectiously characterises zippy numbers like ‘I got a robe’. The whole cycle is skilfully written – though occasionally prone to showbiz touches – and the Cambridge Singers enter the style admirably.
Some of George Shearing’s Shakespeare cycle Songs and Sonnets could have flowed straight from Rutter’s pen. The piano, double bass and choir combination is a refreshing one, and Shearing proves himself a master of smooth, soothing settings.
After an ebullient whizz upwards in ‘The heavenly aeroplane’, Rutter’s Shearing tribute, Birthday Madrigals, is a strange mix of Victorian partsong and light jazz styles. But there are some great individual numbers, with Wayne Marshall’s prancing jazz piano well to the fore. Altogether a real ‘feel good’ disc. Janet Banks