The British choir ORA and its director Suzi Digby have earned both positive critical reception and commercial success with albums combining Renaissance works with new commissions. This makes sense due to the unbroken quality of the English choral tradition, but ORA delves more deeply into the phenomenon with new works by composers who have specifically addressed the influence of Renaissance composers and works. ORA began with Byrd, and here the choir takes up the music of Thomas Tallis. Each of the seven new works here -- by Steven Stucky (whose work was not commissioned anew, but was included in memoriam), Frank Ferko, Richard Allain, Ken Burton, Harry Escott, Kerry Andrew, and Bob Chilcott -- approaches its task in a different way, lending the program as a whole cumulative interest. Sample a pair of works for the full effect: Tallis' Videte miraculum and the fascinating setting of the same text by Richard Allain, explicating Tallis' sometimes dissonant counterpoint as chains of suspensions. Both Tallis' dense Latin polyphony and his limpid English works are included. ORA, a mixed-gender choir of 20, avoids the English cathedral style in favor of a more forceful, text-centered approach to the music that works well in this context, and they're ably backed by Harmonia Mundi's engineers, working at London's All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak (misspelled in the booklet, and not the one delightfully known as All Hallows Barking). If you think you've heard every possibility in recording the choral music of the English Renaissance, get to know ORA through this release.
Many Are the Wonders Review
by James Manheim