As the well-known cliché almost says, this does what is says on the cover and I quote, “Robert Lewis leads Excelsis and London Mozart Players in Clive Osgood’s sacred choral music.” Excelsis is a chamber choir formed in 2007, led by conductor Robert Lewis, with an excellent blend of voices. While we are praising the singing, I must add a word of appreciation for the fine work from soprano soloist Rebecca Moon: well sung! (although that is two words).
The orchestral accompaniment comes from the London Mozart Players. The LMP date back to 1949, making it the UK’s longest established chamber orchestra. While the Players specialise in the music of Mozart (obviously) and Haydn (obvious when you think about it) they give a splendid account of themselves in the music of Clive Osgood who, while being no Mozart (but then who is?) writes enjoyably tuneful music. Mr Osgood is currently director of music at St Bartholomew’s Church in Haslemere, Surrey and teaches music at the Reed’s School, Cobham. He is involved in amateur music making in the community, and many of the smaller pieces on the disc were written for such groups. The easiest comparison would be with John Rutter as Osgood writes music that choirs and audiences enjoy and, where appropriate, worshippers will find uplifting. Osgood sets a mix of Latin and English texts, opening with “Dixit Dominus” (Psalm 110) which is pleasantly accessible without perhaps being as stirring as the original Hebrew. It does, though, invite us in and makes us want to listen on. The first English text is George Herbert’s “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life” which is again approachable and could be successfully presented by choirs of differing levels, which is true also of the Medieval English carol “Alleluia! A New Work Is Come On Hand” which would be a good addition to any choir’s Christmas repertoire. My personal favourite is Osgood’s new setting to that old classic “Brightest And Best” with words by Reginald Heber but there is nothing in this collection that is not worth hearing and much that would be a beneficial addition to any choir or congregation’s repertoire. My home congregation does not sing in Latin so some of the material is wasted on us but as a listener I would be happy to hear any or all of it in a concert programme. If the thought of contemporary choral music makes you uneasy rest assured that this disc is most approachable and all the music is played and sung very well indeed.