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Choral Music by Judith BinghamBBC Singers
The BBC Singers, led by David Hill, are the UK's only full-time professional chamber choir, and their repertoire and virtuosic versatility are almost boundless. The BBC Singers regularly work with the BBC's own orchestras as well as a number of period instrument and contemporary ensembles both in concert and in the recording studio.
This disc features the compositional talent of one of the BBC Singer's former members, Judith Bingham. Bingham is considered a talented all-round composer, having written for a variety of different ensembles including symphonic wind ensembles, brass bands and solo instrumentalists, Despite this she is best known for her choral work, in which she has been commissioned by such ensembles as The King's Singers, the BBC Symphony Chorus and King's College Choir, Cambridge, She has won numerous awards including the Barlow Prize for a cappela music and three British Composer awards.
What people are saying
"Under David Hill’s direction, this superb choir gives precise, passionate and powerful readings.”
Stephen Pettitt - The Times
“The BBC Singers and Judith Bingham are a wonderful collaboration and this new album is not to be missed.”
Ed Breen - MusicalCriticism.com
David Hill, conductor
Release date: 24th Nov 2008
Order code: SIGCD144
|1.||Gleams of a Remoter World||Judith Bingham|
|2.||The Shepheardes Calendar: Winter||Judith Bingham|
|3.||The Shepheardes Calendar: Spring||Judith Bingham|
|4.||The Shepheardes Calendar: Autumn||Judith Bingham|
|5.||Water Lilies||Judith Bingham|
|6.||Irish Tenebrae: My Lagan Love||Judith Bingham|
|7.||Irish Tenebrae: The Road to Sligo||Judith Bingham|
|8.||Irish Tenebrae: The Crying of the Women at the Slaughter||Judith Bingham|
|9.||Irish Tenebrae: The Wake - Round the House and Mind the Dresser||Judith Bingham|
|10.||Irish Tenebrae: I Have a Secret to Tell||Judith Bingham|
|11.||Irish Tenebrae: I Know My Love||Judith Bingham|
|12.||Irish Tenebrae: The Sailor Boy||Judith Bingham|
|13.||Unpredictable but Providential||Judith Bingham|
|14.||Beneath these Alien Stars||Judith Bingham|
|15.||Ghost Towns of the American West: I Speak Out of the Desert||Judith Bingham|
|16.||Ghost Towns of the American West: The Gray Mask High in the Mountains||Judith Bingham|
|17.||Ghost Towns of the American West: The Voices of the Multitude||Judith Bingham|
MusicalPointers.co.uk, November 2008
No reservations about this disc of compositions by a former member of the BBC Singers, except to wonder if the title may be a turn-off for some collectors?
I have been aware of Judith Bingham as a successful and eclectic composer in several genres, but this superbly devised programme places her firmly in the forefront of contemporary choral composers.
There are settings of striking poems by Shelley, Spenser, Yeats, Lamb, Symons, Frost and the American pioneer poet Vesta Pierce Crawford, as well as one by Bingham herself. Bingham has a special gift, which reminded me of Britten's, for selecting apt and memorable poems to set. Having had that thought, I was pleased to note that one of the songs had words by Auden and was premiered by the Britten Singers.
Full texts are provided and following them is essential for proper appreciation. Mostly the songs are meditations upon the poems, without any expectation that the words should be easy, or indeed possible, for listeners to follow by ear alone. Many of them, and the settings, are gems and the whole sequence is one that I have quickly returned to and heard twice through. The notes by Judith Bingham herself are pertinent and interesting.
This is a very classy production. Several of the BBC Singers are featured as soloists, all of them predictably excellent, and there are in some of the items distinguished musicians providing obbligatti for violin, percussion, organ - and whistlers !
This is a choral CD to treasure, one of the year's best.
Peter Grahame Woolf
The Times, January 2009
Judith Bingham is a former member of the BBC Singers, so it of no surprise to discover that she writes so effectively for chamber choir, each piece idiomatic yet challenging, and large with meaning. There’s the expressive, mystic, alpineinspired Gleams of a Remoter World. There’s the hope-filled Water Lilies, the sense of awe in Ghost Towns of the American West, a touching allegory of sin and forgiveness in the Shepheardes Calendar. Most powerful of all, however, is the by turns poignant and angry cycle Irish Tenebrae. Under David Hill’s direction, this superb choir gives precise, passionate and powerful readings.
BBC Music Magazine, February 2009
It’s fitting that the BBC Singers should be in the driving seat for a disc celebrating almost a decade and a half of Judith Bingham’s choral music. A one-time alto in the choir, in 2004 she became its associate composer - though the disc celebrates other enduring relationships on both sides of the Atlantic. Grounded in a capacious choral tradition, Bingham swims naturally and artfully in the medium, yet she has a love of language and a nose for ferreting out inspiring texts and pushes her settings beyond mere facility coasting on effortless technique. The range is striking - nature an abiding nourishment. Irish Tenebrae marries folk material with an extended meditation on violence and forgiveness, Beneath these Alien Stars is Bingham’s response-in-miniature to 9/11,The Shepheards Calendar weaves a three seasons cycle with an arcane starting point, while Water Lilies explores, with an almost neo-expressionist density, healing and renewal. Twice revised, Irish Tenebrae is the longest, most ambitious (and arguably problematic) work on the disc, but throughout, the BBC Singers do their erstwhile colleague proud, David Hill securing performances as flexible and multi-contoured as they are expressive and spatially-aware. The recorded sound is warm and natural jus like the music itself.
Musical Criticism.com, 12th January 2009
Judith Bingham is one of the many distinguished alumni of The BBC Singers and her collaboration with them over the past few years as associate composer was, in my opinion, an inspired choice and one which this recording clearly justifies. Following on from the success of her Mass for Westminster Cathedral Choir in 2003 and the Naxos recording of her choral works by Stephen Jackson and The BBC Symphony Chorus in 2007, this new disc by David Hill and The BBC Singers should firmly establish Judith Bingham as one of our leading choral composers; I hope it will encourage more choirs both amateur and professional to consider her works in their own programmes.
Here Signum have produced another attractive and well-recorded album for which Bingham herself wrote the CD notes. These notes provide an excellent guide to this programme for which the opening work, 'Gleams of a Remoter World', provides the atmospheric title. Along with 'Water Lilies', 'Gleams' is one of the most touching and reflective pieces on the disc – 'Water Lilies' being the work that Bingham contributed to Linda McCartney's tribute album A Garland for Linda in 2000. These are deeply woven tapestries of memory, at once fond, melancholic and richly descriptive and Bingham herself explains how they both come from the same period in her life. The BBC singers take to these soundscapes with their trademark appetite for good music, and being equally at home across so many styles they seem unphased by Bingham's own refusal to be categorised into a particular style-bracket. The singers glide through her ravishing harmonies with an effortlessness that makes this music sound a lot easier than it really is.
Of the other works on this disc, The Shepheardes Calender is, for me at least, the most enjoyable, even if it is rather dominated by the brilliance of its own second movement, 'Spring'. This is a setting of 'The Lord to me a Shepherd is' from the Bay Psalm Book that quickly establishes itself as an Ohrwurm with a maddeningly fascinating collage of humming and singing. The BBC singers are at their very best here, clearly enjoying the mesmeric chord patterns which are an unsettling accompaniment to the shimmering spread of harmonies from the upper voices. There are moments of ravishing beauty from the sopranos where their phrases end by fanning out into chords. Listen out for the climactic word-painting when their cup overflows; this is really wonderful writing and beautifully executed by The BBC Singers.
Bingham's music is not always an easy listen though: there are also bleak landscapes here especially in the Irish Tenebrae which can be quite demanding at times, and she does not flinch from leading us to these darker places. Olivia Robinson's rich voice is well matched to these poems and her performances here are quite wonderful.
There are times, however, when the choir makes phrases feel slightly more laborious than I'm sure they ought to be. The BBC singers are quite big-voiced and whilst I welcome the opportunity to hear larger voices in a choral context I notice that their notion of blend can sometimes become lost amongst so much Ed Breen 12th January 2009 Remoter Worlds 4 Stars MusicalCriticism.com vocal individuality. This boils down to that awkward vibrato question again and I am loath even to mention it but there are moments when vibrato is the elephantin- the-room and not just because the singers use so much vibrato, but rather because they all have such individual vibrato. However, when one hears the high quality of the solo singing (and whistling!) throughout this disc it does go a long way to explain why this individuality is so prominent and maybe it is just a question of us as listeners needing to reconnect with a larger choral sound amidst the prevailing dominance of current early music ensembles.
These are, of course, mere questions of personal taste and should not deter anyone from being inspired by this selection of choral music. The BBC Singers and Judith Bingham are a wonderful collaboration and this new album is not to be missed.