Directed by Christopher Bell, who also directs the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus, the Total Aberdeen Youth Choir is made up of young singers from all over Scotland. Organist John Kitchen is senior lecturer and director of the University Singers at Edinburgh University. He is also the organist at Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the same city and often records for BBC Radio On this disc, Kitchen plays the organ whenever it is called for and Bell leads the young choristers in music grouped according to the ancient classifications of love. The groups, which refer to religious love, are entitled: Friendship, Affection, Eros, and Charity. Bell has added a finale of Scottish songs. The Friendship section begins with Charles Villiers Stanford’s meditative O for a Closer Walk with God, which includes a charming solo by soprano Naomi Freireich. The second selection, John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man, has a dramatic organ accompaniment and interesting solo parts for both the clear-voiced Freireich and the darker-sounding baritone, Christopher Breckenridge. Ireland’s My Song is Love Unknown concludes the group. Affection is represented by the modern lines of Scottish composer Martin Dalby’s Mater Salutaris, the intricate harmony of Thomas Tomkins’s When David Heard, and the simple melody that Freireich sings in Samuel Wesley’s Love One Another. Bell speaks of a religious eros when he chooses Edward Bairstow’s I Sat Down Under His Shadow, Dalby’s My Heart Aflame, and the 16th-century anonymous Descendi in Hortuum Meum (I Went Down into my Garden). Many denominations seem to have adapted Maurice Durufle’s unforgettable hymn Ubi Cantos et Amor. Bell combines it with John Taverner’s graceful Love Bade Me Welcome and John Stainer’s contemplative God So Loved the World.
Bell’s finale is made up of secular, fun-loving Scottish ditties. Traditional songs include the en¬ergetic Fa. La, La, Lo; and three songs with lyrics by Robert Burns: the plaintive My Love Is like a Red, Red Rose; the lively Scots Wha’Hae, and the heart-rending Ca’ the Yowes, which baritone Breckenridge sings with virile tones. The last three songs, the Skye Boat Song, Westering Home, and a song about the Aberdeen area, O Gin I Were Where Gadie Kins, are boating songs with increasingly lively rhythms. This CD was recorded in 1996. The solo parts and the excellent accompaniments come across well but there are occasions when the choral sound could be a little more pristine. That is a minor concern, however. I loved the exquisite timbres of the young voices and the singers’ exuberant renditions of these beloved songs. If you have any relationship at all to Scotland, you will want this disc.