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If Gary Higginson is a pastoralist, then he is of the rugged sort who know that nature carries a sting. The title refers to two distinct but interlocked sets of Blake songs, which Higginson set in 1977 and then between 1979 and 1982. Those treacherously simple words are beautifully placed for girls’ and men’s voices and delivered with unaffected confidence by the Selwyn choir, who know the difference between simplicity and faux-naïveté. Elsewhere, Higginson turns to Shakespeare (his op.1 was a setting from Love’s Labour’s Lost), Newman, Longfellow, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and an exquisite group of almost-haiku by poet Neil Curry, set here for girls’ voices and harp, an obvious but under-exploited combination. Sarah MacDonald gets consistent results and the recording (in St George’s Chesterton rather than Selwyn or Ely) by Benjamin Rayfield and Gary Cole is pin-sharp.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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