MacMillan • Kenny • MacRae • Taylor • Grier • Wishart • Bick

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: MacMillan; Kenny; MacRae; Taylor; Grier; Wishart; Bick
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Set Upon the Rood
WORKS: New Music for Choir & Ancient Instruments: MacMillan: Noli Pater; J Kenny: The Deer’s Cry; MacRae: Cantata; Bill Taylor: Crux Fidelis; F Grier: Cantemus; S Wishart: Iste Confessor; Bick: Set upon the Rood
PERFORMER: Barnaby Brown (triplepipes, aulos), Bill Taylor (lyre), John & Patrick Kenny (chimes); Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge / Geoffrey Webber


Triplepipe, aulos, carnyx and Loughnashade horn: the odds are firmly against you ever having heard these dinosaurs of musical instrument history in action. This intriguing CD resurrects their sounds, in works by seven contemporary composers. The best known of these is James MacMillan, and his Noli Pater, though it sets a medieval Christian text, has a distinctly pagan shriek to it in places, especially where the triplepipe (sonically a kind of kazoo-bagpipe hybrid) buzzes into operation.

The pagan influence is even more explicit in John Kenny’s The Deer’s Cry. Here the whoop and holler of the Loughnashade horn and carnyx (both made of Celtic bronze) impart a mysterious primal aura to Kenny’s setting of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, an effect heightened by the vocal effects employed alongside straight singing. Simplicity, by contrast, is the touchstone of Bill Taylor’s Crux fidelis, accompanied on gut-strung lyre and affectingly sung by soprano Clover Willis and baritone Humphrey Thompson.

The Gonville and Caius Choir responds with élan and versatility to the constantly shifting demands, both technical and stylistic, being made of them. Their effort is worth it: genuinely new sounds and combinations are created in this shape-shifting project, and they invite repeated listening.


Terry Blain