The surprise in regard to the tonal, listener-friendly (and in Britain, specifically Classic FM listener-friendly) choral sound of John Rutter is not that followers are attempting to pick up his mantle, but that so few have done so. Composer Patrick Hawes who, like Rutter, has gained a strong following in North America's abundant choral scene, seems a good candidate to emerge at the top of this heap, and if you like Rutter you might check out this release from Canada's Elora Singers, under director Noel Edison. The choir is impressive, probably closer to the English choral sound ideal than are the leading American choirs, and the sonic ambience of St. Joseph's Church in Fergus, Ontario, in exurban Toronto, is a reasonable choice. Hawes, unlike Rutter, is a committed Christian, and it might be argued that he brings a more inward approach to sacred texts than Rutter does in his more literary orientation. The highlight is the title work, where Hawes runs counter to a few centuries of common practice in setting texts from the Book of Revelations gently, without gloom and doom. In this he follows the giant steps of Handel in Messiah, and you might sample the familiar text "Worthy Is the Lamb" for an idea of what Hawes is up to here. His setting is not Handelian, but rather is reflective and serene, and regardless of your general outlook on this style, he deserves credit for his original conception here. Likewise original is Beatitudes, composed in 2016 like all the other works here save one, and a world recorded premiere. The repetitive structure of the text is dealt with through the addition of an evolving piano part, a decision both novel and broadly appealing. Three other short, new pieces are supplemented by one slightly older work, Quanta qualia (2014), that the choir wanted included because it had already had such success with it in performance. Clearly, something of what has happened so often with Rutter is also happening here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim