The NYCGB Sings Modern Music


RAKASEKAR: Numbers. did you know. HARRIS: Not Been Found. Margaret. H. BAKER: Might Live Happy. Moments. J. WARD: I CANNOT GET TO MY LOVE… / National Youth Choir of Great Britain; Ben Parry, cond . NMS DL3038

The National Youth Choir of Great Britain has, according to the promo sheet accompanying this release, always promoted the music of modern composers. What a refreshing view in a classical music world tied so firmly to the old dead guys! And the very opening piece on this CD, Shruthi Rakasekar’s Numbers, is a perfect introduction to them. Set simply to the recitation of numbers, the text is virtually unimportant; all that matters is the composer’s highly rhythmic and imaginative setting of them to music that is polyphonic, alternately driving and lyrical. In fact, because it is merely a recitation of numbers, the listener can focus in on the music without having to worry about whether or not it matches the words. It’s an abstract exercise, and a very enjoyable one at that.

Lillie Harris’ Not Been Found, which follows the Rakasekar piece after a very short break, appears to be merely an a cappella exercise without many words; the only two I could make out were “old man” and “one hundred and five.” Once again, in the absence of any meaningful text, one focuses on the way she manages the polyphony and rhythm, in this case using a variety of meter and tempi to create an interesting sound pattern. The young singers in this choir are exceedingly good, their voices not only fresh-sounding but steady, attractive and well-blended.

This is followed by Harry Baker’s Might Live Happy, a slower, more lyrical and less energetic piece than the two preceding. This one does appear to have lyrics, but the words were so over-enunciated that they didn’t register in my ears as I listened. This is a fault with this chorus; they need to work on overall diction. All I could make out were “…in the woodland,” “voices” and “ring.” Yet it is a fine piece of music. Harris’ Margaret is another slow piece, and again the only word I could make out was that very name of Margaret.

Joanna Ward gets but one piece on this disc, the weird, slow-moving I CANNOT GET TO MY LOVE… in which she uses some unusual rhythmic devices to create a complex web of sound in which those words are repeated in various ways. There appears to be more text to this song but, again, without a booklet or liner notes I have no idea what they were singing (something about a “keer road”). But I liked the music very much indeed. We then return to Rakasekar with did you know, and here I could actually make out an entire sentence: “Did you know how they see us?” This piece is more lyrical and less contrapuntal than Numbers.

Baker’s Moments is a contrast to his earlier piece in that it is a faster-paced piece using short notes in contrapuntal figures. “We go go go” and “we pluck” were the only words I could extract from this one.

This was the last selection on this CD. As I say, mostly interesting music and good singing per se, but as a comedian once said, “The kid’s got lousy diction, Harry.”

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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