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COMPOSERS: Willcocks
LABELS: Priory
WORKS: Lux perpetua; Gloria; Ring ye the bells
PERFORMER: English Cathedral Singers, Southern Pro Musica/Jonathan Willcocks; Jane Watts (organ)
A visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Flanders in 1998 during the writing of Lux perpetua deeply affected the composer Jonathan Willcocks. The finished work reflects the profound emotional impact of his experience that is well served by this recording.


Diverse literary elements, ranging from Christian and Buddhist religious texts to poetry by Housman, Sassoon, St Francis of Assisi and Matheson, and a musical style broadly reminiscent of Britten’s War Requiem – particularly in the section ‘An army marches into war’ (to words by Willcocks himself) – make an effective and stirring piece. Overall, the ensemble displays an apt feeling for atmosphere with firm control in the climaxes, although the solos are not always as secure. Meanwhile, a straightforward approach to word-setting colours the vocal gestures and the instrumental accompaniment, and the choir clearly savours the touching sweetness of ‘Lord, make me an instrument’ and ‘Gather us in’.


Elsewhere, the musicians contrast the punchy rhythms in the Gloria’s fast outer sections with sensitively blended counterpoint in the slower music, while witty musical representations of ‘let not the schriech Oule’ and ‘the unpleasant Quyre of frogs’ give added interest to their robust account of the celebratory Ring ye the Bels. Nicholas Rast