Benham: A Triumph Song (CR011)
Review by Laudate, The Guild of Church Musicians
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Hugh Benham, apart from being our Guild’s Fellowship Director, has long been a highly respected name in the field of musicological research. Indeed his Latin Church Music in England 1460–1575 has long been a treasured book of mine which I have often referred to in my own research, amongst many other educational books he has written.
So it was a delightful surprise to receive this CD of music composed by Hugh and performed by a choir of such a high standard. Recorded at St Alban the Martyr in Birmingham, the recording presents a selection of anthems and organ pieces for the whole church’s year. Right from the bold solo reed in the introduction of A Triumph Song the composer’s approachable harmonic and melodic style draws the listener in. My favourite tracks are the setting of Christina Rossetti’s well-known Love came down at Christmas, which is given a beautifully mellifluous treatment with a lovely harmonic twist in the second verse and Divinum Mysterium, mostly a setting of There is no rose, but incorporating fragments of the familiar Piae Cantiones hymn.
The organ pieces are unmistakably English with some familiar stylistic echoes. Amongst his Latin settings, O sacrum convivium is in a straightforward chordal style, not without the faintest echoes of Messiaen but I imagine infinitely easier to perform! Ave, verum corpus follows the structure of the Elgar setting but is far more adventurous tonally. Behold the Lamb of God is a fine unison hymn setting of a Matthew Bridges hymn from A&M Revised.
Great credit must be given to Neil Ferris for his excellent direction and Michael Higgins for his solos and sensitive accompaniment.
Michael Walsh, Laudate, The Guild of Church Musicians, 19th June 2013
The Guild was formed in 1888 and exists to encourage all musicians within the Church to attain the highest standards of music in the worship of Almighty God. Membership is open to anyone interested in church music and whilst the majority of members live in the UK the Guild has members living in all parts of the world. There is a separate branch of The Guild in Australia.
Visit website: The Guild of Church Musicians
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