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by Roderic Dunnett


There's something very special and invigorating about the Wakefield sound.

It was true of earlier discs made by the boys' choir, conducted by Jonathan Bielby - a pupil of both Bernard Rose and George Guest - in particular their recording of Music for the Holy Communion (Harwood, Ireland, Leighton etc, Priory PRCD 341), whose virile, St John's-derived tone rendered it, for me, one of the most stirring liturgical recordings in the current cathedral lists.

Over recent years Wakefield - second only to Salisbury - has developed a parallel girls' choir, under the direction of its able assistant organist, Louise Marsh. What she has inspired is something out of this world, as their new record, Ikon of St Hilda, instantly demonstrates. It puts one in mind of the top-rank, gutsy, professional-standard girls' choirs of Sweden, who were pioneering this tradition long before the UK and others caught on.

This Wakefield 20th century music disc takes its title - as you might guess - from a recent piece by John Tavener, specially commissioned in l998 and celebrating (in Mother Thekla's words) Hilda, the Abbess of Whitby. The girls bring more spike and energy to Tavener than many a limpid adult or boys' choir; and Gorecki's sumptuous Totus Tuus, likewise, acquires an attractive cutting edge.

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Copyright © 29 July 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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