Magnificat from the Emmanuel Evening Service
Praise his Name in the Dance
O clap your hands
This lovely lady
Like as the hart
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano)*
Nicholas Mulroy (tenor)*
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge directed by Timothy Brown with John Reid (organ)
Reviewed by: David Wordsworth
Reviewed: December 2001
CD No: PRIORY PRCD 755
The music of Oxford-born, in 1934, Bryan Kelly used to be a regular feature in the days when BBC Radio 3 had its afternoon ’light music’ spot – as this CD shows there is rather more to Kelly than that. As a distinguished pupil of Gordon Jacob, Herbert Howells and Nadia Boulanger, no less, he has taught at the Royal College of Music, as well as in America; he currently lives in France.
He has a considerable catalogue of choral music to his credit. As much of the music on this recording demonstrates, Kelly inhabits something of the harmonic world of Howells; however, this is combined with a rhythmic life that indicates an individual voice that deserves to be better known.
Of the shorter works, the little carol, This lovely lady, is particularly effective in its touching simplicity and sounds well within the means of most choirs. Like as the hart (a text also set by Howells from Psalm 42) is more serious and has an impressive seven-part section setting the words ’Why art thou so vexed, Oh my soul?’ The Missa Brevis has mood-contrasts of an almost Arnoldian manner – from melancholy to joyful optimism.
The largest work here is the impressive thirty-minute cantata, Crucifixion, which sets a variety of texts ranging from George Herbert, WH Auden and specially written words by Anne Ridler. This is a tightly constructed piece, developing in the most satisfying way; Crucifixion concludes with a striking section for the full forces of soloists, chorus and organ. As with the rest of the music on this release, the choral writing is always assured and imaginative and, although I understand that its had many performances, Crucifixion really deserves to be heard more frequently – hopefully this recording might help it on its way. I would certainly love to hear more of Kelly’s music – and, as a choral conductor, I have made a note to search out some of his music for performance.
The performances on this CD, as one has come to expect from this fine choir, are excellent.