Andrew Palmer, Group Editor

Classical Music: Like To A Flower Choral Music By Annabel Rooney

Like to a flower Choral music by Annabel Rooney.

Keep Me As the Apple of the Eye; Preces, Lesser Litany and the Lord's Prayer; Psalm 54; Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis; The God of Love My Shepherd Is; Mass in C sharp minor; Drop, Drop, Slow Tears; Thou Art My Life; To God Our Strength; Unto the Hills Mine Eyes I Lift; Jesu Dulcis Memoria; Ave Verum Corpus; 'Tis Winter Now; Surrexit Christus; Truth from the Earth; Love Came Down at Christmas; Lullaby; This Day, Good Lord

The Choir of Christ's College Cambridge, Conductor: David Rowland.
Organ Scholars: James Tett, Tom Burrows, Davon Halim

Regent REGCD570

I am always a little wary of albums that feature just one composer, despite what century they hail from. And as a writer who has written about the English choral tradition for decades, I am always the first to complain that 18th and 19th century church music composers are being sidelined in favour of those from the 21st century.

Well, Regent is fast challenging me on this assertion. As a company that promotes contemporary composers from both genders, it encourages and advances the diverse talent that is alive and kicking, eclectic, and, as in this case, worth hearing. There is plenty of variety, especially for anyone who enjoys the English choral tradition.

Annabel Rooney’s compositions are heterogeneous, as this album confirms with first-class performances, well-recorded music, and 70 minutes of music that has the attractiveness and freshness to keep the listener’s attention.

It is hard to imagine that Like to a flower is the second album dedicated to the music of Annabel Rooney, who read music at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and it is the choir of her alma mater that performs excellently on this second disc.

Cleverly, it has been curated into three sections: music for the office of Evensong, the Eucharist, and a potpourri of Rooney’s other choral works.

The college choir did their alumna proud with excellent tone, tuning, and diction under the direction of David Rowland. The ratio of tenors to SAB is interesting; there are only three tenors compared to seven sopranos, six altos, and basses; however, the balance works. The accompaniments from the three organ scholars, James Tett, Tom Burrows, and Davon Halim, are performed with consideration not just for the balance of the choir but also in order to subtly highlight Rooney’s skill at writing for voices and keyboard.

I have researched and commissioned articles on Anglican chant, and Rooney’s contribution to the genre with Psalm 54 is glorious: wonderful harmonies, and, while I am not an advocate of unaccompanied psalm singing, this works perfectly; the music fits the words superbly well. Her set of preces and responses would be ideal for any choir, whether parish church or cathedral, to adopt.

Her compositional style is interesting, with lots of word painting and colour. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A minor are two examples and would fit well into any cathedral music list.

Her appealing short mass is another work that needs wider recognition, with the sopranos producing a lovely sound. Some of the most exquisite words to set are Drop, Drop, slow tears and Rooney does not disappoint with the way her harmonies match the words. She is a composer who knows how to deftly complement prose with music. She shows flair with her harmonics, melody, and rhythm, the textures of which are beautifully demonstrated on this, mostly a capella, disc.

This is an album that works, featuring just one composer as all Rooney's compositions are expressive and accessible.

It is due for release on February 9.