A Multitude of Voices | Convivium Records International
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A Multitude of Voices


  • Catalogue
  • Composer
  • Conductor
    Christopher Watson
  • Producer
    Libby Burgess & Sebastian Thomson
  • Engineer
    Andrew Mellor
  • Mastering
    Adaq Khan
  • Soprano
    Susanna Fairbairn
  • Fournier Trio
    Chiao-Ying Chang, Sulki Yu & Pei-Jee Ng
  • Cover Image
    Geoff J Harris
  • Artwork
    John Duggan
  • Genres

A Multitude of Voices

WWI Centenary in Choral Song

Featured composers: Richard Allain, David Bednall, John Duggan, Alexander L’Estrange, Frank Ferko, Colin Mawby, Cecilia McDowell, Francis Pott

The project was conceived to add substantially to the choral repertoire for remembrance and to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war with a collection that offered a broader view of the war, reaching beyond the dichotomy of war is noble/war is hell.

Composers were asked to look outside the poetical canon and consider texts by women, neglected poets and writers in languages other than English, resulting in a collection of personal responses to texts that the composers picked themselves.

Most of the male poets featured here died on the Western Front, although Apollinaire perished in Paris in the influenza epidemic, and Stramm was killed on the Eastern Front. We get an insight into the extraordinary courage of the nurse, Edith Cavell, and a view of the Home Front from Charlotte Mew.

Four of the new pieces use texts by Edward Thomas, highlighting the regard in which he is now held. Perhaps, more than any other, he gives us a glimpse into another world.

Composer Testimonials

“It has been a very great pleasure and a privilege to be asked to write for Sospiri’s wonderful A Multitude of Voices project. It is a wonderful idea, and an ideal way to mark this centenary. Sospiri are a group of immense and innate musicality, and under the leadership of Chris Watson and John Duggan, their performances are technically sound and emotionally direct. I hope very much to work with them again in the future and wish this exciting launch every success.” David Bednall

“Sospiri is a superb choir who sing with sensitivity, feeling and great technical ability.  A CD of twenty first century music to mark the 20th century outbreak of the first world war is an important and moving event. Sospiri create the atmosphere of sadness and revulsion that mark most people’s attitude to those horrific and  never to be forgotten events of 100 years ago.” Colin Mawby

“I was delighted to be asked by Sospiri to be part of their World War I commemoration CD A multitude of voices.  The choir is ambitious and very talented and I’m thrilled with the job they have done.  I chose to set “Rain" by Edward Thomas – a poem from 1916.  The poet lies awake at night, listening to the rain falling onto the roof of his hut. The rain and the solitude prompt thoughts of those soldiers who are exposed to danger and death in the world outside.  The setting is a cappella, with a simple but expressive baritone solo for the more intimate personal moments.” Alexander L’Estrange


Sospiri is an Oxford-based amateur choir, formed in 2006 by composer John Duggan and singer Christopher Watson. They met singing in Magdala, David Skinner’s mixed voice choir at Magdalen College, and quickly discovered a shared passion for Gregorian Chant which had been kindled during their time in Westminster Cathedral Choir – John was a boy chorister there under Colin Mawby, and Christopher a lay clerk more recently under James O’donnell and Martin Baker. The original members of the choir all came from within the ranks of Magdala. Some, like Susanna Fairbairn, have gone on to sing professionally, and the membership has gradually increased so that now people travel to Oxford from Birmingham, Edinburgh, London and Kent to take part in Sospiri projects.

This is the choir’s sixth CD. Previous discs include a collection of Lamentations on the Naxos label and Requiem, a disc containing among other things John Duggan’s original set of six WWI pieces, which is available on The Gift of Music label. Sospiri has a particular focus on juxtaposing old pieces with newly written ones, with the unifying thread of texts connecting them. The choir performs concerts regularly in Oxford, has toured France and Italy, and for several years has sung a termly Latin Vespers in the chapel of Merton College, their service from January 2014 being broadcast worldwide by the European Broadcasting Union.

Christopher Watson

Christopher Watson is an Oxford-based singer and conductor. He is a member of the Tallis Scholars, with whom he has performed over 400 times, Theatre of Voices, with whom he has won a Grammy in 2010 and Gallicantus. He also sings regularly with Tenebrae and Concerto Palatino. He has worked as a soloist for Trevor Pinnock, Paul Hillier, Paul McCreesh, Philippe Herrweghe and Joshua Rifkin and regularly performs the Evangelist role in the Bach Passions. He has made over 100 recordings including Lassus Motets and Psalms with Philippe Herrweghe, Bach Motets with Peter Kooij, Lassus Lagrime di San Pietro with Gallicantus and Berio’s A Ronne with Theatre of Voices. He founded Sospiri with John Duggan in 2006 and this is the sixth recording he has made with them. In 2012 he was appointed Director of Music at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he directs the Chapel Choir and organises a series of concerts and other musical events for the undergraduates.

Susanna Fairbairn

Susanna Fairbairn is a founder member of Sospiri. She studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, Trinity College of Music and Wales International Academy of Voice, and is forging a successful career in opera and on the concert platform. Susanna has won numerous prizes including the Selma D and Leon Fishbach Memorial Prixe at the 2014 Handel Singing Competition. She was a 2013 Park Lane Group Young Artist.

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