Classical Album of the Week: Sonically Elegant Choral Music from Pembroke College, Cambridge
March 22, 2021. All Things Are Quite Silent is the debut commercial recording of the Chapel Choir of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and The Pembroke College Girls’ Choir. Under their remarkable conductor, Anna Lapwood, the choirs perform a sonically elegant program of short a capella selections by composers ranging from Josef Rheinberger to Caroline Shaw. And in keeping with our celebration of women’s history month, the work of women composers comprise the majority of the album.
The Pembroke choirs offer sacred settings appropriate for chapel service by familiar names in the classical literature such as Amy Beach (“Peace I Leave With You,”) John Taverner (“Mother of God,”) Elizabeth Poston (“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree,”) Jonathan Dove (“Two Prayers of St. Edmund of Abingdon,”) Rebecca Clarke (“Ave Maria,”) and Josef Rheinberger (the famous “Abendlied.”)
Some of the more adventurous works include Pulitzer winner Caroline Shaw’s “And the Swallow.” Shaw uses unexpected rhythms, pauses, repetition, and sound effects to draw attention to the words of Psalm 84.
The title track of the album, “All Things Are Quite Silent,” is Kerry Andrews’ setting of a traditional English folksong, in which the singers create the sounds of sea and wind, and effectively evoke the same effect that Andrews originally created with her own singing and loop station.
A choral arrangement of her own “Sing to the Moon” by R&B singer Laura Mvula, who was classically trained, offers a fascinating contrast to the original R&B version, which reached the Top 10 UK recordings chart. Karensa Briggs’ “Media Vita” is almost bluesy in harmony, in reflecting its text by Benedictine monk Notker from 912, about workmen risking their lives to build the bridge of Martinsbruck.
Music director and conductor Anna Lapwood is represented in her “O Nata Lux,” which touches both dissonance and consonance, sustained tones and sharp punctuations. It’s a persuasive piece, much like its composer, who is also a concert organist and a broadcaster for the BBC. Ms. Lapwood was appointed Director of Music at Pembroke College at Cambridge in 2016, when she was just 21 years old.
Besides singing services based in Cambridge, the Pembroke College Choir does global outreach in Thailand and Zambia, and local outreach in their own community.
Women’s History Month on WRTI is supported by Temple University, which celebrates the legacy of Agnes Berry Montier, class of 1912, and the first Black woman to earn a medical degree from Temple.