Jonathan David LITTLE: Sacred and Secular Choral & Polychoral Works – Vox Futura / Thomas Tallis Society Choir /The Stanbery Singers – Navona Records

“Woefully Arrayed” = Jonathan David LITTLE, Sacred and Secular Choral & Polychoral Works – Vox Futura/Andrew Shenton/Thomas Tallis Society Choir/Philip Simon/The Stanbery Singers/Paul John Stanbery – Navona Records NV6113 [Distr. By Naxos] (7/14/2017) 73:54 ****:

Very beautiful and restful—sit back and relax.

I have always enjoyed good, quiet choral music of nearly any sort. I admit I am partial to those big works—bombastic or placid—that employ a full choir with orchestra, but sometimes a capella writing and that “church” sound is just what I need. This album is a delight on all fronts.

While I had never heard of Australian composer Jonathan David Little before, I was definitely impressed with his work on these pieces. Little has received many awards and recognitions for his music, including the Professional Development Award from the Musician’s Benevolent Fund in the UK. He studied at the University of Melbourne and taught at the Academy of Contemporary Music in London for a while as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Probably the most unusual aspect of Little’s choral work; certainly of the pieces on this album, is his use of creative and sonically innovative voice placement. The recording and aural display of these works is good. The booklet notes give us a very good explanation and understanding of “polychoral” vocal writing; essentially just what is sounds like. Little achieves unique and beautiful effects through spacing and arrangement of vocal groups. It seems that Little’s techniques are well grounded in both very careful construction of harmonies and voicing as well as in acoustics and the physics of sound.

In fact, two of the most fantastically beautiful works in this collection—Gloria, op.18 and Wasted and Worn, op. 6, also have atypical and unique placement of the singers. (The diagrams in the booklet indicate a genuine precision to Little’s decision making.)

Of the six selections herein, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite—I greatly enjoyed each of them. Little uses traditional selections from the Latin mass for his sacred texts; for his secular texts he uses poetry and essays from English poets John B.L. Warren and Shakespeare. This album would have direct appeal to anyone with a background in choral music or who likes to listen to a genuinely involving piece of a capella choral music. When I hear music of this sort it reminds in the best possible ways of when I have actually had the pleasure of hearing music by Tallis or Dunstable in a large old marble clad cathedral – all too infrequently truth be told.

The three groups performing here—Vox Futura, the Thomas Tallis Society, and The Stanbery Singers—are all amazing; some of the best groups you will ever hear. Very enjoyable, highly recommend!

—Daniel Coombs

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