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Brightness and fidelity

Choral music by
Cecilia McDowall -
appreciated by

'... a composer who deserves to be heard as widely as possible.'

Cecilia McDowall: Magnificat; Christus natus est; Ave maris stella; A Fancy of Folksongs. Rachel Nicholls, Frances Bourne, Sally Pryce, Canterbury Chamber Choir, Parmiter's Senior Singers, Orchestra Nova / George Vass. © 2004 Dutton Epoch

The graceful and sympathetic treatment of voices by any composer these days is to be valued, and that is why the name of Cecilia McDowall should be immediately associated with the special understanding that makes her choral music feel comfortable for the singers -- music which fits, appreciating and taking full advantage of all that voices can do well. Of course, writing choral music is not all she does, but good fortune has brought us a new CD upon which are settings of Latin church texts, Christmas carols and British folksongs that all seem to provide ample evidence of her love of the choir.

McDowall was born in London fifty one years ago and has just this year enjoyed three significant first performances -- a work for saxophone and string quartet (Dancing Fish), a new work for the Sorrel Quartet at the Presteigne Festival and, inevitably because the choral attraction is so strong, a setting of the Stabat Mater for St Albans. Her music has an air of freshness, brightness and fidelity about it, inspired, well heard and technically well made, and without any doubt -- a pleasure to be in company with. Its sounds bring to mind other composers who may have coloured the edges of her originality -- composers like Gerald Finzi and Frank Bridge, a faint haunting of a delightful Englishness that combined fluent lines and occasionally astringent harmony with rhythmic buoyancy.

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Copyright © 11 December 2004 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


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