Lux Aeterna
Sydney Chamber Choir/Paul Stanhope 
ABC Classics 4816296

Numerous studies continue to confirm what most amateur choristers have always known: singing in a choir is good for you. All over Australia large numbers of volunteer singers come together every week with a variety of motives; whether in the service of high art music or religion; or in the celebration of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality or just plain friendship. Such activity not only enriches our nation’s artistic life, but produces positive outcomes for singers’ physical and mental health.

Sydney composer Paul Stanhope was himself a chorister in the Sydney Chamber Choir before he took over its artistic direction in 2006. He continued as the choir’s director until 2015. Featuring eight of the composer’s choral works composed between 1999 and 2014 this disc reflects not only Stanhope’s considerable creative ability but the multi-faceted role of the choral composer: sometimes consoler or prophetic social commentator.

Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light) eloquently expresses the theme of light that runs through the programme. While retaining a gentle modernist idiom, its reminiscences of Britten and Duruflé sensitively illuminate the text. Duruflé’s influence is also felt in Ubi Caritas. Lush choral textures and harmonies make the music equally attractive to singers and listeners. The same can be said for Cherubic Hymn, another effective motet. Fiant Luminaria (scored for choir, timpani, percussion, piano and organ) vividly recounts the creation of light from Genesis and shares an interest in creation with The Land is Healed. Ban.garay!, a work based on the indigenous story of Jandamarra.

Exile Lamentations consist of three choruses which “reflect upon the experience of displacement, homelessness and banishment”. Harnessing the power of choral music, this is a thoughtful exploration of an important contemporary issue using Jewish and Palestinian elements. Stanhope’s old choir does him proud here: performances are disciplined yet empathetic. How good to have such an uplifting collection of Australian choral music!

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine