ORA / Suzi Digby

Desires: A Song of Songs collection

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Many collections of choral music have taken a specific liturgical event, text, or biblical theme for a subject, but the choice of the "Song of Songs" here, by the hot new British choir the ORA Singers, is apparently unique. This is a bit odd in that composers have been attracted since the early Renaissance by these allegorical sexual texts, which are packaged here with an elegant commentary by the Rev. Tim Harling. Better late than never, however, and you couldn't ask for a richer reading than the one here. The ORA Singers follow the programming concept they have offered on other albums, with Renaissance works combined with contemporary a cappella pieces, but each of those categories contains unusual items. The Renaissance pieces feature some unusual composers; fans of lounge music may be disappointed that Juan Esquivel, the composer of Surge propera amica mea, is a Spanish Renaissance composer, not the Mexican lounge music figure, but this transparent piece is one of the most entrancing of the whole set. Suzi Digby establishes an attractive contrast between the denser Renaissance pieces from the Low Countries and the limpid works of Victoria and Palestrina from the Counter Reformation. The contemporary works likewise gets a strong connection from the performers. Several were written for the choir specifically, and not all are English. Jonathan Dove's Vadam et circuibo civitatem, with its rich female vocal writing, seems tailor-made for this project. The sound environment of the All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, combines well with the sensuous sound of this choir for an unusually satisfying a cappella release.

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