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I first fell in love with Rutters music when I was 14 years old, and a choirgirl with St Peters Choir, Nottingham. We sang at a wedding, and one particular piece of music from the service, Gaelic Blessing, with the music composed by John Rutter, really stood out for me as being soulful, calming, and truly uplifting. Unlike much of the dreary music which seems to have been written by pious god-fearing types in search of a bump up the ladder to heaven, his music was just, purely and simply, inspiring.
After the wedding, I looked out for some more of his music, and fell completely in love with the style of it.
About John Rutter
John Milford Rutter was born in London in September of 1945. As a young man, he attended Clare college at Cambridge university, where he composed and published his first music while still a student, and became a member of the choir. Later, in 1975, he became the director of music there, directing the choir in a number of recordings and radio and television broadcasts.
He stayed until 1979, when he began thinking of putting together his own group of singers, which he did in 1981, The Cambridge singers, whom he conducts as they perform a wide range of choral music, including many of his own works, which the Cambridge singers also recorded, under Rutters own record label, Collegium.
As well as composing and conducting, he also works as a musical editor. He lives and works in Cambridge still, although he also guest conducts other choirs all over the world.
Although most of his music is religious, Rutter himself has admitted (most notably on the program 60 minutes) that he is not particularly religious himself, but that he does find spiritual music uplifting and inspiring. He's probably one of the most prolific and successful composers at the moment, his shepherd's pipe carol has sold over one million copies in sheet music alone.
About the Album
This album contains 22 tracks of Rutters own composition, performed by the Cambridge singers, whom he founded in 1981, and the City of London Symphonia. Both these choirs are talented and well known for their performances, and between them have a huge number of recordings available to buy.
Although I will provide a full track listing, I won't go into a full description of each and every song. I will however highlight a few particular favourites of mine.
1. For the beauty of the earth
2. Lord is my shepherd
3. All things bright and beautiful
4. Shepherd's pipe carol
5. Lord bless you and keep you
6. Open thou mine eyes
7. My true love hath my heart (Birthday Madrigals)
8. Eseurientes (Magnificat)
9. Gloria patri
10. Out of the deep (Requiem)
11. Pie Jesu (Requiem)
12. What sweeter music
13. Choral fanfare
14. Prayer of St Patrick
15. O be joyful in the Lord
16. Behold the tabernacle of God
17. O praise the Lord of Heaven
18. Gaelic blessing
19. Angels' carol
20. Matthew Mark Luke and John (Five Childhood Lyrics)
21. Sing a song of sixpence (Five Childhood Lyrics)
22. Go forth into the world in peace
Some of these titles may seem familiar, such as "All things bright and beautiful" but these are reworked music using the original words.
Pick of the best
Gaelic blessing was the piece that started it all off for me, both because of the purity of the wish expressed in the lyrics, and because of its calm, gentle start, and then the gloriously loud high notes as they joyfully proclaim Christ the Light of the world. Its a relatively short track, only one main verse, no repetition of lines , and only a little over two and a half minutes ins in length. But it doesn't need to be any longer. I first heard this at a wedding, and to me, its the perfect wedding blessing, but conversely, would also be perfect for a funeral, as its mainly an expression of wanting someone to be blessed with peace and happiness. It should be noted that the words are not Rutters own, this is a traditional blessing.
Oh be joyful in the lord.
This is a typical example of Rutters skill at reworking classic hymns. Many people who regularly attend church may have heard the tradition arrangement of this hymn (Original music by Alfred R. Gaul, and the words from psalm 100, one of the designated canticles for the service of Matins, the original version of this piece of music dating from 1905).
Rutters arrangement was composed with a specific organist in mind, Gordon McMillan from the First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas, in 1984, and the almost over the top level of musical accompaniment that goes along with the voices singing is a testament to McMillan's ability.
The song is suitably joyful and excited, and flute and piccolo lend an airy and light sound, while the strings attain a suitable amount of dramatic effect, switching between pizzicato and tremolando
Sing a song of Sixpence
Yes, its traditional children's nursery rhyme, arranged as a purely vocal performance. I'm sure you all remember the words and the tune, so there's not much to say about that, but the arrangement and layering of the vocals is wonderful, and hearing a choir sing unaccompanied really gives you a chance to appreciate the full scale of the choir's vocal talent. Simply put, it's amazing.
There's many songs I love on this album, a couple I absolutely adore, adore, a few I only like, but absolutely none I don't enjoy listening to. The style of the songs is mixed - some are very traditional sounding, many are joyful, some are sad and almost eerie, some are peaceful and serene, and all, in my opinion are inspiring.
The cover design is a rather nice photograph of a tree standing by a lake on a cloudy dark day. It's a nice photo, but it's not the most groundbreaking cover image ever. In black text at the top are the words John Rutter, all capitalized, with collection beneath in smaller letters
At the bottom of the cover it names the choirs, and the back of the case reveals the song tracks. There is a small amount of information about Rutter and the choir in the sleeve booklet
Availability and Cost
This CD is available from Amazon at £12.48. It's also available in most large music stores with a classical/choral music section.
Should you wish to listen to some of the music before you buy, I would recommend a site; Hear the Choirs Sing, located at http://www.geocities.com/hearchoirs/ . A simple search turns up a large selection of Rutter works, performed by various choirs, as well as many other wonderful pieces of excellent choral music. It costs nothing, and there is no downloading, and no need to register.
I heartily recommend this to anyone with an interest in choral music - the styles are eclectic and theres something here to suit everyone, from nursery rhymes to full blown devotional works. Rutters composition skills are amazing, the choirs are truly talented, and the instrumental accompaniment leave nothing to be desired.
Thank you for reading my review, I'll leave you with the words of the Gaelic Blessing.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
www.amazon.co.uk to order.
www.hearchoirs.net/ to listen for free
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 For the beauty of the earth
2 Lord is my shepherd
3 All things bright and beautiful
4 Shepherd's pipe carol
5 Lord bless you and keep you
6 Open thou mine eyes
7 My true love hath my heart (Birthday Madrigals)
8 Eseurientes (Magnificat)
9 Gloria patri
10 Out of the deep (Requiem)
11 Pie Jesu (Requiem)
12 What sweeter music
13 Choral fanfare
14 Prayer of St Patrick
15 O be joyful in the Lord
16 Behold the tabernacle of God
17 O praise the Lord of Heaven
18 Gaelic blessing
19 Angels' carol
20 Matthew Mark Luke and John (Five Childhood Lyrics)
21 Sing a song of sixpence (Five Childhood Lyrics)
22 Go forth into the world in peace