This release presents a group of Tenebrae Responsories (pieces for the last three mornings of Holy Week, marked in Catholic tradition by a service in which candles are extinguished), plus a selection of other works of the 2000s and 2010s by Scots composer James MacMillan. MacMillan has gained popularity with a style mixing a spiritual religious style with elements of Scots and other traditional styles. The music here tends toward the former, with several of the smaller pieces (sample Ave maris stella, track 8) adopting an almost neo-Renaissance polyphony; there are several works that could be added profitably to the repertory of almost any choir. Some of the music has a stark accompaniment in brass, but the three responsories themselves are set a cappella. They were inspired by Tomás Luis de Victoria's settings of these texts and aim toward a comparable solemnity. If they don't quite achieve that, they do offer the listener for whom John Rutter is starting to cloy an alternative vision of contemporary crossover music from the British Isles, one that has a bit more tension to it. The responsories have been recorded by several groups, including the Sixteen, but this one, recorded by the Westminster Cathedral Choir operating on its hallowed home ground, is well worth considering; it is very clearly recorded.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Tenebrae Responsories, for mixed choir a cappella|