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This splendid CD celebrates the 10th anniversary of the foundation of St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir, Cambridge, the first college-based girls’ choir. They have come a long way in the last decade under their director Edward Wickham, and the evidence of this CD shows what an exceptionally skilful and versatile group they are. Ending with Benjamin Britten’s familiar Friday Afternoons, the programme takes us through song collections by subsequent generations of British composers, all of which reveal different facets of the possibilities of writing for children’s voices. Howard Skempton’s Five Poems of Mary Webb, without piano and using two-voice textures, are especially effective, while Richard Rodney Bennett’s The Insect World and The Aviary (both 1966) are full of infectious melodic writing. The choir’s 22 voices are exceptionally well blended and sing at all times with utter conviction – they obviously thoroughly enjoy what they’re doing. Just occasionally one hankers for a tad more bite to the diction, but that may be more to do with the acoustics of St Catharine’s College, where the CD was made, rather than with the choir itself.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica


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