Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:06 AM 14th October 2023

Classical Music: Coleridge-Taylor Part Songs

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Part Songs

Sea Drift*; By the lone seashore; Isle of Beauty*; The Lee Shore; Dead in the Sierras*; Song of Proserpine*; The Fair of Almachara*; The Sea Shell; All my stars forsake me; The Evening Star; Whispers of Summer*; Summer is gone; Requiescat*.

*premiere recordings

The Choir of King's College, London,
Conductorr Joseph Fort
Delphian DCD3427

One of the part songs from this tremendously well-presented programme is titled Isle of Beauty, which could be the tagline for the disc. Showcasing the superb compositional writing of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who died from pneumonia all too young, aged 37, Joseph Fort’s university choir is stunning; the balance between voices, the dynamics, and the way they nuance each song, capturing the beauty of the genre as well as the sentiment of the words, are outstanding.

Sadly, Coleridge-Taylor is really only known for his cantata Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, but there is much more to this composer, as the Choir of King’s College, London, proves and, in doing so, shines a light on his rich harmonies through ‘vivid settings of Romantic poetry from Britain and America with poetic sensibility, inspired by subjects ranging from the exquisite beauty of nature to the Victorian fascination with death’.

One can hear the influence of Stanford, in whom, according to Jonathan Clinch, Coleridge-Taylor found not only a dedicated teacher but also one who was equally invested in reconciling elements of his own (Irish) cultural heritage into classical forms, not unlike the latter's assimilation of African melodic features.

The choir is marvellous, performing 46 minutes of a cappella-controlled singing superbly well; the lower voices are resonant, and the upper voices soar beautifully, all performing with poise, especially in The Fair of Almachara with its 'arresting fanfare,' as Clinch so aptly writes in his splendid notes, a vivid sonic evocation of an evening spent at a country fair in Málaga.

The disc concludes with Requiescat, which truly illuminates the skilful techniques of the choir. Fort’s choral ensemble certainly brings out the richness of the fifths in the bass to the melodic ecstasy of ‘Ah! would that I did too’, and is four minutes of lyrical beauty that peacefully closes a programme featuring no fewer than seven premiere recordings.

In fact, the sumptuous harmonies are delivered by all parts with poise and a wonderful tone throughout. The part song is suited to unaccompanied singing, unlike Anglican chant, which doesn’t work so well.

This disc is an excellent introduction to a set of attractive part songs, wonderful poetry, Coleridge-Taylor and an impressive choir, that delivers singing of sublime and exquisite beauty.

Photo: Foxbrush
Photo: Foxbrush