The Soul Rests Eternal

£12.00

A close brush with his own mortality eighteen months ago was the driving force behind Mike Sheppard’s decision to focus solely on his composing, putting aside his other commercial interests as a music publisher and producer. The Soul Rests Eternal marks the first fruits of this new direction.

The works take the listener on a journey exploring the emotional landscape of grief, bereavement and loss, but also hope, optimism and a celebration of life. Seen through the twin perspectives of the composer’s eyes and a more global view, the album takes an emotional journey from the immediate to the eternal; the banal to the sublime. A ‘radio-friendly’ collection of three to six minute works, Classic FM have confirmed playlisting for the album upon its release in November.

Performances on the disc come from internationally renowned cellist Caroline Dale and the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the emmy-award nominated musican Steve Sidwell.

 

 

 

SKU: SIGCD232

What people are saying

"It would be hard for anyone to top the humanity of Caroline Dale’s interpretation. Nor her warmth, sonority and depth of tone, which just accentuates the music’s sustained, almost heady emotion. The ECO support her with playing that perfectly straddles the borderline between the earthly and the eternal." Classic FM Magazine, February 2011   

" … I can think of many reasons to listen to this music, but none more profound than the fact that all of us can sees a mirror image of portions of our own souls in it. Warmly recommended." Audiophile Audition 

"Caroline Dale … is as eloquent a soloist as one could hope for … The recording is excellent: present, and the perfect reflection of Sheppard’s haunting language." Fanfare

"If you enjoy the music of Karl Jenkins and Jon Lord, then this will work for you." Musicweb International, November 2014

Mike Sheppard

Caroline Dale

English Chamber Orchestra

Steve Sidwell

Release date:1st Nov 2010
Order code:SIGCD232
Barcode: 635212023228

  1. Prologue – – 2.31
  2. Elegy for a Lost Son – – 4.16
  3. Artemis & Orion – – 3.50
  4. Despite the Falling Snow – – 3.27
  5. Soliloquoy – – 3.06
  6. Lullaby – – 3.59
  7. The Soul Rests Eternal – – 5.28
  8. Tintinnabulum – – 4.28
  9. A Remark You Made – – 4.45
  10. Hymnus – – 3.59
  11. Ripples – – 4.04
  12. An Ordinary Tuesday – – 4.17
  13. Ellie’s Theme – – 5.07
  14. Epilogue – – 2.13

Mike Sheppard is a music publisher and producer who dabbled in composition as a hobby. Following the death of a family member and experiencing a near-death experience himself in 2009, he decided to follow a life’s dream and take composition seriously. This does sound a little bit like the plotline of a bad movie, but as the old saw goes “life is stranger than fiction”.

The result is this collection of fourteen short pieces for cello and orchestra, connected by the theme of bereavement. That might give the impression of nearly an hour’s worth of bleak, sad and slow music, which is not the case. While most is relatively slow, it is not bleak or sad, more reflective and in some cases, gently optimistic.

Now for those of you who prefer contemporary classical music to have an edge, I can probably suggest that you can stop reading now. This is not complex music; it is very filmic, full of melody but not challenging in any way. If you enjoy the music of Karl Jenkins and Jon Lord, then this will work for you. 

The most distinctive pieces are Soliloquoy (the composer’s spelling) for solo cello, Ripples, jazz-inflected for cello and percussion and Ellie’s Theme.

The best writing is unquestionably for the cello; Caroline Dale does an outstanding job of making more of this music than there really is. I had not heard of her before this, but her pedigree is unquestionable: a student of Pierre Fournier, finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 13, an Isserlis Scholarship at 15. She has featured in a number of soundtracks, the most significant perhaps was Hilary and Jackie, the biopic of Jacqueline du Pré. She deserves more recognition and her own recording of the Elgar.

Describing this as soothing background music would seem to be denigrating it, but that is not my intention. I enjoyed it for what it is, and also for what it is not.

Musicweb International, David Barker

Classic FM Magazine, February 2011

 

The Music. These fourteen new works for solo cello and orchestra are an intense listen, exploring grief, bereavement, hope, optimism, and human relationships. The often pastoral-sounding music is characterised by predominantly slow tempi, lush textures and chords, and melodic lines that are both highly lyrical and often rhapsodic in feel. Harmonically, there’s nothing astringent here. Just beauty.

 

The Performance. It would be hard for anyone to top the humanity of Caroline Dale’s interpretation. Nor her warmth, sonority and depth of tone, which just accentuates the music’s sustained, almost heady emotion. The ECO support her with playing that perfectly straddles the borderline between the earthly and the eternal. Being picky, and perhaps curmudgeonly, the cello didn’t need quite as much reverb as has been given. Presumably it’s to heighten the otherworldly beauty, but at times it feels as if the recording could have benefited from the ‘less is more’ approach.

 

The Verdict. If you want to lie back to something warm, soothing, yet intense, this is unquestionably it. Beautiful music, played with passion, even if harder personality types might prefer a drier acoustic for the cello.

Charlotte Gardner

 

The Gramophone, June 2011

Contemporary pastoral sounds, performed with understanding

A prominent feature in Mike Sheppard’s music is its strong neo-pastoral quality. Sweeping melodic shapes are underpinned by sumptuous modal harmonies which flow out of a lush lyrical bedrock, as heard here on "Elegy for a Lost Son", "Lullaby" and "Ellie’s Theme". Perhaps what makes this quintessentially English style interesting in the hands of composers such as Sheppard and Patrick Hawes is that it is shaped through their experiences of working at the commercial end of the business – producing film soundtracks and music for television adverts.

While some tracks on this evocatively entitled disc do resemble glorified film cues ("Despite the Falling Snow", for example), Sheppard manages to project such vignettes into more effective extended musical movements. However, there remains a rather piecemeal quality about The Soul Rests Eternal, despite the composer’s attempts to subsume all 14 tracks under one overarching theme (grief, bereavement and loss leading to hope and optimism). Sheppard arguably becomes more interesting when he adds complex rhythmic patterns to the musical material, as heard in the shimmering propulsion of "Ripples" (dedicated in memory of jazz drummer Chris Dagley), or the title-track itself, whose minimal "moonlight sonata"-style accompaniment eventually gives way to a series of extended melodic layers.

Efficacious in this respect are the commanding performances heard here, especially that of cellist Caroline Dale. This may not be technically difficult music but it still requires thought and understanding. Dale manages to draw every drop of emotional energy from the instrument on "Soliloquy" and "A Remark You Made". It is fitting that her beautifully weighted sound is heard at the very beginning and end of this disc.

Pwyll ap Siôn

 

Audiophile Audition, September 2011

It was a brush with death and a nearly-simultaneous loss of a close family member many miles away that led composer- performer-music businessman Mike Sheppard to resolve that life was simply too short to not be doing the things you love, which in his case was writing music. This album is the result of that decision, but it is more than a turning to a favorite muse, it is instead a deeply felt and almost embarrassingly personal reflection on death, life, bereavement, love, hope—all those simple things with easy answers.

The “pastoral” sensibilities of this music have been commented on in other reviews, mainly by British writers, and I won’t dwell on it mainly because I think it a tremendous oversimplification. Not everything that is reflective and long-lined is “pastoral”, and while I hear more than a smidgen of film music- type melody in these works—and good film music melody at that—the music ultimately defies stereotyping. It is all for cello and orchestra, and might work best taken in two or three separate doses, as the tone, while remarkably adept at describing various human emotional states, still maintains a basically slow and steady pulse that can wear down the unprepared. However, if you are one who is attracted to radio shows like the old Hearts of Space on NPR, this album would perfectly fit and fill an entire show.

Caroline Dale, winner of the first ever BBC Young Musician of the Year contest at the age of 13, and now principle cellist of the English Chamber Orchestra, plays with stunning clarity and exception warmth throughout, while the ECO is in absolutely top form. It’s a risky thing for someone like Sheppard to share his sensitive and personal emotional core with an audience like this, but he does so with a lot of integrity and vision, as a man who has been reborn. I can think of many reasons to listen to this music, but none more profound than the fact that all of us can sees a mirror image of portions of our own souls in it. Warmly recommended.

Steven Ritter

 Fanfare, September 2011

Composer Mike Sheppard writes that this music explores the "emotional landscape of grief, bereavement, and loss, but also hope, optimism, and a celebration of life and human relationships." Sheppard was taken ill in January 2009 and decided to follow his heart, and to compose. This album is the first fruit of that decision.

The open spaces of the Prologue set the scene (the Epilogue is a reflection of it). The sound world is reminiscent o f Arvo Pärt in its barrenness. The effect of a cello ensemble is created by over-dubbing. Film music forms the starting point for "Elegy for a Lost Son" (the second movement). Sheppard draws also upon Greek myth (Artemis), poetry (Robert Graves), and includes two memoria. One memoriam is for drummer Chris Dagley; the other forms the emotional center point of the piece, and is for a close family member of the composer’s, Michael Franklin. A "Lullaby" calls upon the English Pastoral tradition; sonically, "Tinitinnabulum" forms an effective contrast. Sheppard’s scoring can be effective, for example the re-creation of an organ at the opening of "Hymnus," the 10th movement. "Ripples" (the 11th movement and the memoriam for Dagley) is probably the most active and is scored for cello, tuned percussion, and cymbals. Caroline Dale, who I first encountered as a BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, is as eloquent a soloist as one could hope for. One of the movements, the fifth ("Soliloquoy") is unaccompanied and infinitely effective, especially when interpreted by Dale. Ultimately, though, this music is pleasantly sad rather than a response of any great depth. It makes reference to Minimalism, and seeks a stillness that is undeniably touching. The recording is excellent: present, and the perfect reflection of Sheppard’s haunting language.

Colin Clarke