Lockerbie Memorial Concert is the third release on composer Gavin Bryars' boutique label GB Records, and is taken from a concert given December 21, 1998, at Westminster Cathedral as an observance of the 10th anniversary of the explosion of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Likely an act of terrorism, this event claimed 270 lives, one of them being sound engineer Bill Cadman, a close friend of the composer. The audience for this carefully chosen program included family members of Lockerbie disaster victims, and they were treated to an evening of music presented by the Hilliard Ensemble and Fretwork under the direction of Bryars himself.
Of the original Bryars works featured here, Incipit Vita Nova, In Nomine (after Purcell), and the Cadman Requiem have appeared on CD before any studio-made recordings, although Incipit Vita Nova is presented in a configuration for an instrumental consort rather than for voices and strings as on the ECM New Series album Vita Nova. For most Bryars' fans, the Point Music disc of Cadman Requiem came and went so quickly, copies of it appeared impossible to locate, let alone obtain. So consequently, much of this music will come to us as new, and Lockerbie Memorial Concert is definitely the first release of anything from Bryars' First Book of Madrigals. Along the way, the program is spiced with older works by Antoine Busnois, Henry Purcell, Nicolas Gombert, and John Jenkins.
Westminster Cathedral, needless to say, is a live and very loud room, and there is some kind of constant ambient background noise throughout the recording. The performance, however, comes off without a hitch, excepting a measure or two of stray intonation in the Cadman Requiem -- given the typically subtle, yet wayward harmonies of Bryars' idiom that's not too bad an average, even for a singing group as expert as the Hilliard Ensemble. Nevertheless, these details are small and insignificant when one measures the overall impact of the Lockerbie Memorial Concert, which seems to have been a moving and meaningful one for those who attended, and doubtless was a memorable event for the composer. The flow between the older works and Bryars' newer ones is seamless, and it is an excellent example of the sense of identification with Renaissance and early Baroque music that Bryars explores in his work, in addition to an emotional and dignified memorial to those whose voices were silenced forever.