Vasari Singers / Jeremy Backhouse

Gabriel Jackson: Requiem

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Bermuda-born British composer Gabriel Jackson writes a cappella choral music in the tonal, audience-friendly style he shares with so many of his contemporaries. Yet the music here is both distinctive and a bit more personal than is usually the case with, say, John Rutter. Jackson's Requiem mass (2008), which here receives its world premiere, combines the Latin requiem mass with texts by Japanese, Indian, and Australian aboriginal writers. Its seven sections express their texts quite vividly through difficult vocal runs and ornaments, making quite a challenge for the choir; the Vasari Singers are not a professional group, but the commitment with which they approach the material comes through. Jackson's mass and several of the shorter pieces included held specific meanings for members of the choir, one of whom, Geraldine Atkinson, contributed the text for Jackson's I Am the Voice of the Wind. Musically the program holds together as well; Jackson's style lies right between the "holy minimalism" of John Tavener and the slightly more harmonically complex idiom of Francis Pott, whose substantial When David Heard ends the program and balances the Jackson Requiem. The net result is a program of pieces, mostly heard here on recordings for the first time, that achieves its goal of a genuinely warm, consoling tone a bit reminiscent of the Brahms German Requiem. A fine addition to collections of contemporary British choral music.

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