The Rose Singers / Peter Foggitt / Paul Plummer

Ablaze with Light: Choral Music by William Petter

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This release memorializes British singer and composer William Petter, who died in 2016 of clear-cell sarcoma at the age of 34. The music was written during his illness, which stimulated him to turn toward composition. Proceeds from the album support Sarcoma UK. It is clear, however, that the album has found an audience beyond these tragic circumstances, and any listener who enjoys the music of John Rutter would do well to sample the pieces here. Petter was an alumnus of The Sixteen and several other top-notch English choral groups, and his music draws on Renaissance idioms a bit more than does that of Rutter. It is often startlingly and compellingly economical. There are two settings of the mass, in Latin, two anthems, and an opening unaccompanied Lord's Prayer. Petter's counterpoint is tonal but often entirely original in character. Sample the Kyrie of the St. Magnus Mass, where a long plainchant-like line is partially engaged in counterpoint, gives way to block chords, and snakes back in the men's voices. The treatment of the organ in some of the numbers is also novel. The Rose Singers, selected for this recording by Petter himself and named for his young daughter, Rose, are a 28-strong choir made up of vocalists from nationally prominent English choirs. They are superb, and another star of the show is the Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, an unheralded but acoustically splendid venue. It does not diminish the memorial or the charitable functions of this release to enjoy it on its own terms.

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