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A Sound Came From Heaven / Maskell, The Graduate Choir NZ

Mews / Graduate Choir New Zealand / Maskell
Release Date: 11/12/2013 
Label:  Atoll Records (New Zealand)   Catalog #: 407   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Douglas Mews
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Graduate Choir Nz
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


MY SPIRIT SANG ALL DAY Terence Maskill, cond; Claire Caldwell (pn); the graduate choir nz ATOLL 105 (52:38)


Music by FINZI, ERB, RUTTER, DEBUSSY, PEARSALL, BRAHMS, MENDELSSOHN, BRUCKNER, STANFORD, MADDEN, DIENES, POELINITZ, DAWSON, McHUGH/FIELDS, MARSHALL, MASKELL


A SOUND CAME FROM HEAVEN Terence Maskill, cond; Read more Elizabeth Salmon (org); Christina Bevan (pn); the graduate choir nz ATOLL 407 (65:40 Text and Translation)


Music by MEWS, STANFORD, MENDELSSOHN, SCHUMANN, PEARSALL, BRAHMS, RITCHIE, HAMILTON, MARSHALL, THOMAS


The lower-cased graduate choir, nz, is, as one might expect from the name, from New Zealand; it is about a dozen years old and has about 35 singers (at least on the second disc). It must be said at the outset, however, that, whatever its age and size, this is a very good ensemble, indeed. It is evenly balanced, it sings in tune, and, wonderfully, its words are clear. Though these sound like requisites for all choirs, they are usually more perceived by their absence than not.


A look at the composers represented will show that these two discs are similar in their organization. Both begin with the standard repertory of most choirs, with a preference for music from the 19th century, and both end with recent music from New Zealand composers. In that standard repertory, it seems to me that the pieces by Brahms, particularly the fine Geistliches Lied on the later recording, and the Mendelssohn, come off with especial care and nuance.


Of the New Zealand composers, one first remarks that these are all quite conservative pieces. In that sense, they fit the somewhat reflective and romantic vein that moves both discs. Within that traditional context, a couple caught my ear. Song of Hope by Anthony Ritchie has a fine surge to it as a response to a disaster in which many people died. David Hamilton’s Karanga is the only piece to approach modern choral techniques, though within a still traditional framework, and Christopher Marshall’s pieces, to words by Katherine Mansfield and to Samoan texts, occasionally suggest the winds of other sounds. These are all on the second disc.


These are fine calling-card discs, and there is pleasure to be heard in both. The later program is the more adventurous, but both must have made good listening in the hall. As best I can tell, these two recordings come from about two years apart, 2005 and 2007(?), during which it sounds as if the ensemble had increased in size, but that may be an acoustical quirk of the recording location. The latter places more room around the choir, which can rob the loud parts of their punch. The choir’s website tells me that they have made a third recording, one of Christmas music, but I think this ensemble is now ready to tackle more challenging repertory.

FANFARE: Alan Swanson

Tracklist:
A sound came from heaven – Mews
For lo, I raise up – Stanford
Kyrie – Mendelssohn
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe – Mendelssohn
Heilig – Mendelssohn
Abendlied – Mendelssohn
Es ist verraten – Schumann
Who shall have my lady fair? – de Pearsall
Great God of love – de Pearsall
Geistliches Lied – Brahms
Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace – J Ritchie
Song of hope – A Ritchie
Karanga – Hamilton
Horizon I – Marshall
To L.H.B. – Marshall
Moemoe pepe – Marshall
Minoi, minoi – Marshall
Embraceable you – Gershwin
I’m gonna sing – Thomas
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Works on This Recording

1. A sound came from heaven by Douglas Mews
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Graduate Choir Nz
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1974; New Zealand 

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