Sansara is an acclaimed choral group of young professional singers. Formed in 2013, it won the London International A Cappella Choir competition two years later. This is their first CD, the music of which ranges from Gombert (c1495-1560) to the present day. The overall scheme is darkness to light, although much of the music is fairly slow-moving and reflective in character. This isn’t really surprising as a majority of settings are for the Requiem Mass, Ash Wednesday, David’s mourning for his son Absalom, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Unusually, the conducting of the group is shared amongst four of the singers. Two works are by associate composers of the choir, Marco Galvani and Oliver Tarney. Both works have effective energy and are given fine performances.
Certainly the singing is of a high standard, with attention being focused on realising the full character of the music. It is good to have such a range of styles, from Byrd and Bach through Rheinberger and Holst to six modern settings. Along the way there is a fine performance of Mauersberger’sWie liegt die Stadt so wüst, composed in 1945 after the Allied bombing of Dresden. I also enjoyed the setting of Cloths of Heaven, which was specially composed by Malcolm Archer for this recording. However, I found the setting O come let us sing unto the Lord by Cheryl Frances-Hoad on the dark side, the last chord being one of the few joyful sounds. The choral writing of MacMillan’s Lux Aeterna was certainly beautiful, although it seemed strange to end the CD’s ‘darkness to light’ theme on a minor chord. That said, this is a very worthwhile collection of a cappella choral writing.