Southern Star

Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne

Michael Leighton Jones, director

Marshall McGuire, harp

ABC Classics 476 6349

TPT: 63’ 11”

reviewed by Neville Cohn

The gem of this compilation is Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The finesse that informs every moment of this exquisite work makes this one of the most satisfying recordings of the work I can recall. It’s a compendium of musical marvels. Whether in evoking the ecstatic interior mood of As Dew in Aprille, the emphatically stated This Little Babe or the rippling note streams that Marshall McGuire coaxes from his harp, this is a performance to cherish.

Britten’s delightful work is often performed, yet there’s nothing here that sounds dull or routine. On the contrary, it comes across with a newly minted freshness which is quite delightful.

McGuire is no less persuasive in Christopher Willcock’s Southern Star. The texts of this song cycle are by cartoonist extraordinaire Michael Leunig. The Trinity College choristers are in fine fettle here, sombre in the introductory Love is Born, intense and ecstatic in Christmas and, in Gul Gul Dja Mardji, the presentation is informed by an emphatically atavistic quality. I liked the bustle which informs What did you get? (a rather delightful piece about Xmas presents) – and in Real and Right and True, McGuire again comes up trumps.

William Kirkpatrick’s Away in a Manger was a joy and Andrew Carter’s Mary’s Magnificat is beautifully essayed.

A thoroughly recommend compilation.

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