Truro Cathedral Choir / Christopher Gray / Luke Bond / Joel Garthwaite

Vox Clara: Music by Gabriel Jackson

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AllMusic Review by

Several good recordings exist for the music of composer Gabriel Jackson, who offers a refreshingly less sentimental take on the contemporary development of the cathedral choral tradition as compared with Rutter and company. This is one of the best, for it represents a partnership with the Truro Cathedral Choir, a choice small group (men and boys) from southern Cornwall that Jackson has worked with and that has spawned several leading conductors on the British choral scene. What makes it most interesting is that several of the pieces here were actually composed for this choir, at various times. Jackson's music reflects a range of influences running from Stravinsky's more oracular mode to medieval polyphony to soul and R&B, here represented in the person of saxophonist Joel Garthwaite. In the titular work, not written for Truro but commissioned by the choir's former conductor, Andrew Nethsingha, Jackson in his own highly informative notes likens the "raucous alienness" of the soprano saxophone to the ancient shofar, but the saxophone plays various roles, including reproducing the incantatory shapes of Jackson's top vocal lines and producing little globes of sound reminiscent of something in a modern jazz solo. There are also a couple of short, compelling duets between Garthwaite and organist Luke Bond, without the choir. There are several strong multi-section pieces, including a concise Missa Triueriensis and a set of Seven Advent Antiphons ingeniously constructed so that they can be performed singly or flow into one another, but also sample the smaller pieces written for the Truro Cathedral Choir such as the festive Cantate Domino, with its brilliant writing for the boy trebles and energetic organ part. Throughout, the Truro choristers have a sound that every aficionado of English choral music should experience: the big London choirs may exceed them in sheer smoothness of vocal blend, but there's a certain bright, passionate quality of involvement with the text here that's not replicated anywhere else. The engineers from the small Regent label, presumably recording at Truro Cathedral itself (although this is not stated anywhere), have thought about what's going on and captured it effectively. A fine introduction to one of contemporary Britain's most interesting composers of sacred music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 04:44
Seven Advent Antiphons
2 02:23
3 02:20
4 02:21
5 03:31
6 01:32
7 02:53
8 03:00
9 02:43
10 06:02
Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Truro Service)
11 04:03
12 02:12
13 03:40
14 08:18
15 05:42
16 03:04
17 04:46
Missa Triueriensis
18 02:18
19 04:01
20 01:34
21 00:48
22 03:07
blue highlight denotes track pick