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Matthew Owens is second to none in his championing of living composers. Here with the girl choristers and Vicars Choral of Wells Cathedral, he introduces us to the music of American composer Gary Davison, organist and choirmaster of Saint Francis Episcopal Church, Potomac, Maryland. Davison’s greatest strength is a deep understanding of a sacred text, which informs his writing. Composers don’t develop in isolation and Davison’s influences can be spotted throughout this overview, among them John Tavener and Vaughan Williams. There is an uncluttered, harmonic appeal to his writing, and particularly imaginative are the stunning title track The Armour of Light, Easter for trebles, organ and viola, the settings of The Wells Service for men’s voices and organ, and two contrasting sets of canticles. The Santa Fe Canticles are set for trebles and organ. In the Magnificat, Mary’s joyous response to the Annunciation is expressed in dancing organ patterns, to which the voices respond with a flourish. By contrast, the Magnificat of the Palace Garden Canticles for mixed choir, trumpet and organ starts serenely with a trumpet used in similar vein to Jan Garbarek’s saxophone with The Hilliard Ensemble; but the mood changes quickly, Davison concentrating on the severity of this text and giving the trumpet a dramatic line in a fine piece of writing. This distinguished cathedral choir is in excellent voice, enhanced by the creative playing of Jonathan Vaughn.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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