There is no doubting the purity of twelve-year-old treble Luca Brugnoli’s voice, nor the efficiency of these arrangements. Both are startlingly in evidence in this performance of Robert Lewis’ arrangement of Bill Whelan’s Lift the Wings. The mix of saxophone and treble with solo guitar and string quartet is gentle and somehow haunting at the same time. Interestingly, Clive Osgood’s O quam tristis begins from a similar place, but rises to more emotional territory. The recording mix is good, with solo instruments nicely held in perspective. Osgood’s is a decidedly easy listening setting of words from the Stabat Mater.
The Arne is heard performed by treble, organ, and chamber strings. True authenticists might want to look away, but one has to admit this has a certain something: The propulsive quality of the throbbing sun and the mobile lines of the treble are somewhat appealing (although Brognoli has a tendency to snatch away at the last note of phrases, robbing them of both duration and meaning). Maybe Mozart’s famous Ave verum corpus is a step too far, though. Polish film score composer MichaÌ Lorenc’s Ave Maria as a piece of music is pleasant but little else, although it does allow Ollie Weston’s soprano sax to sing rather nicely with Brugnoli.
The disc takes its title from the pop ballad Rise Up by Cassandra Bati; Robert Lewis is the pianist. The issue is that Brugnoli’s melismas (the pop “whoo-oooo” to a number of notes) sounds so unconvincing; maybe he’s just too young for a soulful melisma.
The familiar name of Bob Chilcott anchors us in his prayer Irish Blessing, a piece very much in the “warm glow” core of this release. There is hope, though, in Dominic Sewell’s imaginative arrangement of Gordon Summer’s famous Fields of Gold; but the hopes are rather dashed in the warm sonic bath of Lole’s arrangement of David J. Evans’ Be still for the presence of the Lord. There seems to be more emotional truth to David. J. Evans’ Litany to the Holy Spirit, given a nice church ambience with the use of an organ. Again, Brugnoli is credited as both singer and organist, with Mark Shepherd also as organist.
It’s no fault of Brugnoli’s, or any of the performers here, but I did have to brace myself fort the excerpt from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s execrable mish-mash of a Requiem. It’s good that Brugnoli has the high register and he can access it so easily via a faultless slur, and likewise nice to hear Alice Patten, a young soprano, as the echoing voice. Far more successful as a piece of music is Don McLean’s Vincent (you may know it as Starry, Starry Night), and Benjamiin Pope’s arrangement is heartbreakingly tender. Jonathan Hennessy-Brown is the superb cellist.
It’s also nice to have Franck’s Panis angelicus here, and Brugnoli’s voice is just right. Matthrew Coleridge’s arrangement might tend towards the syrupy, but Brugnoli’s voice is true. John Rutter is a master of his craft; he has a unique musical imprint. One knows it is Rutter straight away, and Brugnoli sings his imprecations beautifully. Bizarrely, Joni Mitchell’s wondrous Both Sides Now, in an arrangement by Vince Mendoza adapted by Dominic Sewell, comes out sounding like something from The Snowman. It is fitting to end with Amanda McBroom’s The Rose: The song is very much part of the ethos and atmosphere of the album.
Care has gone into mixing and engineering. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the entire enterprise, but ultimately it left me unmoved.