Fanfare

To hear young musicians sing about love is nothing too very remarkable, but to hear such an accomplished young choir as this take on such a ranging wealth of music demands extraordinary attention. The Aberdeen Youth Choir (in partnership with a commercial sponsor) has provided youth aged 16 to 25 throughout Scotland the opportunity to sing in what amounts to a professional choir. Conductor Bell, who holds respectable credentials.. has fashioned a precise, tight, highly musical and flexible ensemble from these 36 young singers. The sopranos in particular prove supple, transparent in tone and dead in tune. The lower voices, as typical of high-school-aged singers, sometimes lack depth in production, a quality obvious in their reaching for higher pitches. But this is a minor observation in what is otherwise inspiring to hear and demanding of great respect and enthusiasm.

Spirituality and sensuality are but two sides of the same, and that realization drives this wonderful choice of repertoire. The works are less sentimental than longing in nature, perhaps for the comforts of salvation or the wonder of adoration, or the very real red-blooded attraction of one human being for another. So it is that Stanford and Ireland so easily coexist with Tomkins, Tavener, or a host of traditional Scottish love songs. Some sources are obvious, such as Edward Bairstow’s sumptuous and brief setting from the Song of Solomon. Others are further afield, like the Tomkins staple When David Heard. Indeed, by Bell’s own admission, he has grouped the repertoire by associations with particular aspects of love: friendship, affection, eroticism or charity. As a coincidence, except for the Duruflé potboiler, all the works come from the British Isles. No juxtaposition of style or time jars the hearer, just as no musical demand outweighs the abilities and sensitivities of these singers.

Those of us in the choral business have, more than once, wondered aloud where the next generation of talent might be hiding…This powerfully accomplished, if sometimes flawed, disc serves to remind us of the abilities of young musicians and the truly gratifying results readily at hand for those who make the effort. Sponsor, choir, conductor and label alike deserve great thanks and credit.

—Haig Mardirossian