Spirited People

Spirited People

See below for a track listing, introduction, lyrics, credits and reviews.

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Track list

  1. Virgin Birth 02:55
  2. Psalm 63 02:55
  3. A New Song 02:33
  4. Te Deum laudamus!: Te Deum 00:43
  5. We Praise Thee, O God: Te Deum 04:15
  6. You are the King of Glory O Christ: Te Deum 04:12
  7. O Lord save your people and bless your inheritance: Te Deum 00:39
  8. Day by day we magnify you: Te Deum 04:11
  9. Introit: The Spirit Within 02:12
  10. Praise the all-sustaining Word: The Spirit Within 03:37
  11. Wild, extravagant, wilful friend: The Spirit Within 01:42
  12. The Time of Quiet: The Spirit Within 02:55
  13. Dawn is the moment: The Spirit Within 01:07
  14. A Spring Afternoon in New Zealand: The Spirit Within 03:00
  15. Southerly Sunday: The Spirit Within 02:32
  16. November Morning: The Spirit Within 02:08
  17. These Hills: The Spirit Within 03:03
  18. But where shall we find You: The Spirit Within 01:45
  19. Where Blows the Spirit?: The Spirit Within 02:52
  20. On the Swag: The Spirit Within 02:18
  21. In as much as you have done it…: The Spirit Within 01:44
  22. Let Justice Roll Down: The Spirit Within 04:14
  23. But there are other impulses…: The Spirit Within 01:00
  24. The Folly of Love: The Spirit Within 02:58
  25. The clearest signature of your presence…: The Spirit Within 00:47
  26. I Sing the Grace of God: The Spirit Within 02:01
  27. I Read Your Signature: The Spirit Within 01:24
  28. Praise the All-Sustaining Word: Colin Gibson 03:00
  29. It’s How We Live That Matters: The Spirit Within 03:08
  30. To Enter into that Gate 02:53

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About this CD

Festival Singers is a community choir with a history and practice of seeking to work alongside the Christian church. They visit local churches to sing hymns. anthems and folk-style pieces and also appear at weddings, funerals, and special occasions. Their concerts include large classical works and they have also made a feature of performing New Zealand compositions, as a contribution to local music development.

Many people are searching for relevant ways of expressing their Christian faith through music. Festival Singers has presented the music of the historical church-hymns, anthems, liturgical pieces – alongside the folk and rock expressions of the new music of the day.

This CD breaks new ground for the choir by including spoken reflections. It exhibits a breadth of musical approaches from chant. antiphonal styles, folk and traditional hymns to classical art songs.

The CD is a spiritual journey. It begins by affirming our desire to communicate with God – the Te Deum is a statement of belief and faith, culminating in a glorious outburst of praise. We are reminded that the Spirit of God touches us through our senses in the rural landscape, and later we are asked, “How do we see God in the busy life of the city?” We are challenged to take seriously Jesus’ model of service and sacrifice, in our everyday lives. Finally, the choices we make really do matter to God, and this noisy world of multiple tensions will pass into an eternity of peace, in his own timeless presence.

Colin Gibson is a major contributor to the growing body of New Zealand Christian music. His cantata, The Spirit Within, forms the central portion of Spirited People. He tells of God, the majestic and awe inspiring, whose Spirit surprises us in our dreams or in a flash of light. He also provokes us to respond to poverty and injustice. Gibson’s music draws on both classical and popular traditions: his poetic texts set us firmly in our own rural and urban landscapes.

Jonathan Berkahn is an organist and Celtic band enthusiast who also plays accordion and whistle. His uplifting choral music captures a feeling for intimacy with God, and his works are underpinned with the rhythmic joy of Irish folk jigs and reels. Berkahn also draws on church traditions and classical music forms, often with texts taken directly from the Anglican prayer book or from Scripture itself.

Rosemary Russell, choir director, writes songs that spring from life experiences incorporate a desire to express ideas and values that are of God.

Philip Garside, who sings with the basses on this recording and plays the guitar, writes lyrical music in a folk style, drawing on scriptural themes.

Spirited People presents recent work of New Zealand composers in an album which we hope will appeal by the immediacy of the texts and the accessibility of the music. It challenges us to worship God wherever we are and to apply ourselves to social concerns as exemplified by Jesus, through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Rosemary Russell, Musical Director, August 2007.

Lyrics

Virgin Birth
Words: Joy Cowley. Music: Colin Gibson

We have within us a virgin space,
A holy place which belongs to God alone.
We know it by its hunger, we name it by its need,
A space that will not be touched
By the people we love or the things we gather
Or the positions we hold.

We have within us a growing place,
An eternal space that exists for Truth,
Where the love of God overcomes us,
Where the life of God fills us,
The Emmanuel space,
Where we conceive and become pregnant of the Holy One,
And day by day give birth to Christ in the world.

Psalm 63
Words and Music: Philip Garside, Rosemary Russell

O Lord my God you are my sovereign,
With my whole being I long for you.
Like worn out, dry and waterless desert,
O how my hungry soul thirsts for you.

Let me see you in your sanctuary,
See how mighty and glorious you are.
Your constant love is better than life itself,
I sing your praises and glorify you.

You are with me, you uphold me,
You protect me and guide me O Lord.
You are with me, upholding me daily.
Lord you protect me and guide me each day.

A New Song
Words and Music: Jonathan Berkahn

O sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing all the earth, sing to the Lord,
Give praise to his name.
Tell of his works to the nations,
Sing of his love, his mercies proclaim,
Tell out the news of salvation.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad.
Let the sea roar, the creatures of the deep.
Let the fields be joyful and all that is therein.
Let every creature on the earth praise him.

Te Deum

Te Deum laudamus!
Music: Jonathan Berkahn

Te Deum laudamus!
Te Dominum confitemur,
Te aeternum Patrem,
Omnis terra veneratur.

We Praise Thee, O God
Words & Music: Jonathan Berkahn

We praise thee, O God,
We acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee,
The Father everlasting.
To thee all angels cry aloud,
The heavens and all the powers therein.
To thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy, heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.”

The glorious company of the apostles praise thee,
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee,
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy church throughout all the world
Doth acknowledge thee,
The father of an infinite majesty,
Thine honourable true and only Son,
Also the Holy Ghost the comforter.
Holy, holy, holy, heaven and earth
Are full of the majesty of thy glory.

You are the King of Glory O Christ
Words & Music: Jonathan Berkahn

You are the King of Glory O Christ,
The everlasting Son of the Father.
And when you did come to set us all free,
You humbly accepted the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the bitter sting of death
And opened heaven to all believers.
You are seated beside the right hand of God
In the glory of the Father on high.
We believe that you will come to be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people
Redeemed with your own precious blood,
And bring us to glory eternal
With all your saints.

O Lord save your people and bless your inheritance
Words & Music: Jonathan Berkahn

O Lord save your people and bless your inheritance.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.

Day by day we magnify you
Words & Music: Jonathan Berkahn

Day by day we magnify you,
Day by day we praise your name.
Ever, ever and evermore,
For ever, ever, world without end.

Keep us this day without sin,
O Lord have mercy upon us.
O Lord let your mercy lighten upon us
For our trust is in you.

In you O Lord have I trusted,
Let me never be confounded.
Ever, ever and evermore,
For ever, ever, world without end.

The Spirit Within

Introit
Music: Colin Gibson

Praise the all-sustaining Word
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

Praise the all-sustaining Word
Blazing out against the night;
Inextinguishable flame,
Beacon burning ever bright.
Praise the calm, majestic will,
Drawing endless good from ill.

Praise the never-failing love,
Patient to the end of time;
Praise the rainbow,
And the dove searching ocean for a sign;
Praise the mighty storm of grace
Pouring down upon this place.

Praise the parent God of all,
Past and present, yet to be;
Praise the Christ, the child
Who showed love in pure simplicity;
Praise the Spirit, life-long friend,
Praise till praise shall, praising, end.

Wild, extravagant, wilful friend
Words: Colin Gibson

Wild, extravagant, wilful friend,
We have looked for You in all the proper places to trace your footsteps in our lives.
But like a hunted deer, You slip away before the threat of our pompous piety, our solemn dullness, our domesticated religion.
And suddenly, in the haunted glade of our imagination, in the tumbling mid-stream of our living, You are there – glimpsed for one precious moment; known in a heart-beat, a lightning flash of visionary light.
Never more than on a solitary beach, a rocky riverbed, a track through the greenness of the bush, out on a sun-lit hillside, or among the great mountain peaks reaching upward into the sky.
As we move over this land, slowly learning to love its harshness and its beauty, its startling light and profound darkness, its turbulent motion and its ancient stillness, we catch sight of You, our constant companion, on the very edge of our vision.
Overshadow us, good Spirit;
Go with us in all our ways.

The Time of Quiet
Words: Joy Cowley. Music: Colin Gibson

Sometimes, on a still morning, it seems
That all the earth is breathless with love
For the God it conceals and reveals.

The brown stones at the water’s edge
Are set like some ancient language
Pronouncing the truth of God,
Where our words fail us.

And the sea, the hills, the early mist,
Become like water-colour painting
On a fine gauze curtain drawn over a tabernacle.

At such times we feel so close to the eternal light which lies behind everything,
That we can almost reach out and touch.

All we know in this perfect moment
Is that we too can walk on water.

Dawn is the moment
Words: Colin Gibson

For contemporary poets Lauris Edmond and Joy Cowley, dawn is the moment of the Spirit’s visitation; the time “when we feel so close to the eternal light which lies behind everything, that we can almost reach out and touch.”

For Anne Glenny Wilson, writing almost exactly one hundred years before them, a ride over her Ngaio Station land on a Spring afternoon brings her to within earshot of the ocean and to the very edge of vision. “Between the clouds, a ray of sunshine slips and writes a word in gold.”

And Ursula Bethell, writing in the 1930s, watches the play of wind and light from her Banks Peninsula home and rejoices as her southerly Sunday becomes “this sparkling day” on which her Lord comes “to judge and redeem his beautiful universe, and holds in his hands all worlds, all men, the quick and the dead.”

A Spring Afternoon in New Zealand
Words: Anne Glenny Wilson. Music: Colin Gibson

We rode in the shadowy place of pines,
The wind went whispering here and there
Like whispers in a house of prayer.
The sunshine stole in narrow lines,
And sweet was the resinous atmosphere.

And shrill cicada, far and near,
Piped on his high exultant third.
Summer! Summer!
He seems to say – Summer!
He knows no other word,
But trills on it the live-long day:
The little hawker of the green,
Who calls his wares
Through all the solemn forest scene.

A shadowy land of deep repose!
Here where the loud nor’-wester blows,
How sweet to soothe a trivial care,
The pine trees’ ever-murmured prayer!
To shake the scented powder down
From stooping boughs that bar the way,
And see the vistas, golden brown,
Touch the blue heaven far away.

But on and upward still we ride
Whither the furze, an outlaw bold,
Scatters along the bare hillside
Handfuls of free, uncounted gold,
And breaths of nutty, wild perfume
Salute us from the flowering broom.

Stop the horses for a moment,
High upon the breezy stair,
Looking over plain and upland,
And the depth of summer air.

Watch the cloud and shadow
Sailing o’er the forest’s sombre breast;
Misty capes and snow-cliff glimmer
On the ranges to the west.

Hear the distant thunder rolling:
Surely ‘tis the making tide,
Swinging all the blue Pacific
On the harbour’s iron side…

Now the day grows gray and chill,
But see on yonder wooded fold,
Between the clouds a ray of sunshine slips,
And writes a word in gold.

Southerly Sunday
Words: Ursula Bethell. Music: Colin Gibson.

The great south wind has covered with cloud
The whole of the river plain,
Soft white ocean of foaming mist,
Blotting out, billowing fast to the east,
Where Pacific main surges on vaster bed.
But here on the hills, south wind unvapoured Encounters the sunshine,
Lacing, interlocking, invisible effervescence you almost hear,
And the laughter of light and air at play overhead.

Sea birds fly free,
See the flash of their underwings!
And high lifted up to the north,
The mountains: the mighty, the white ones,
Rising sheer from the cloudy sea,
Light-crowned, established.

This sparkling day is the Lord’s day,
Let us be glad and rejoice in it.
For he cometh, to judge and redeem
His beautiful universe,
And holds in his hands all worlds,
All men, the quick and the dead.
This sparkling day is the Lord’s day,
Let us be glad and rejoice in it.

November Morning
Words: Lauris Edmond. Music: Colin Gibson

Yes. Yes, it is.
The first hint of a musical whisper.
It’s miraculous. Absurd.
The moon’s still up, and that can’t be light,
That grey sketch of a shadow of leaves
Against what I suppose is the sky.
At the door the air throws out a cool hand.
Shall I go out?
I could, I’m alone,
I could step out of everything, even my skin,
Speak to the world in private, alone.
Maybe never come back.
The birds are so tender, so good,
They don’t have a reason.
It’s a blink of daylight in their eyes.
That’s all.

Imagine that being enough
To make you want to sing!

These Hills
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

These hills where the hawk flies lonely,
Beaches where the long surf rolls,
Mountains where the snows reach heaven,
These are our care.
Pastures where the sheep graze calmly,
Orchards where the apples grow,
Gardens where the roses cluster,
These are our prayer.

Forests where the tree ferns tower,
Rivers running strong and clear,
Oceans where the great whales wander,
These are our care.
Race meeting race as equals,
Justice for age-old wrong,
Worth for every man and woman,
These are our prayer.

Cities where the young roam restless,
Lives brought to deep despair,
Homeless and powerless people,
These are our care,
Places where the Word is spoken,
Hands held in serving love,
Faiths of our many cultures,
These are our prayer.

All that the old world gave us,
All that the new world brings,
Language, ideas and customs,
These are our care,
Life finding joy and value,
Faith seeking truth and light,
God heard and seen in all things,
This be our prayer.

But where shall we find You
Words: Colin Gibson

But where shall we find you in the life of the city: that other world, that other nature, which we ourselves have created from steel and plastic, glass and concrete?

The city, whose valleys are streets winding between towering buildings; whose rivers are traffic flows and communication networks; whose mountains are multi-storeyed office blocks and terraced apartments; whose ocean tides of humanity flow every working day from commuter trains, bus stations, car parks and airports into a thousand shops, banks, offices and workplaces, returning homeward in the evening rush-hour to distant suburbs and waiting families.

How shall we find you in the busy, impatient city, where neighbours do not know each other’s names; where bargains are sought more keenly than the truth? Where shall we find you in the city, where casual oppression, stark loneliness and secret fear exist among a multitude?

Haunt us good Spirit, even in our restless preoccupations.
Surprise us in our dreams.
Challenge our unconcern.
Teach us to care for each other.

Where Blows the Spirit?
Words: Shirley Erena Murray. Music: Colin Gibson

God of our workplace, God in our city,
Stones in our buildings honour your name.
Churches and chapels, raised to your glory, Monuments, blessings, civic acclaim,
But where goes the Spirit?
Where blows the Spirit?
Where is the heart that should beat?
Only in people, spirited people,
People who walk on our street.

Business and banking, government office,
Market-place mindsets, jostle and shove.
Still there is vision, still there is kindness
Seen in the struggle, self-giving love.
For there goes the Spirit,
Here blows the Spirit,
High where the powerbrokers play:
Change comes through people, spirited people, People who act as they pray.

Traffic and trading, daily commuters,
Street kids and strollers make up our scene.
Foodbanks deliver, stock markets tumble,
Eyes of the city watching the screen,
And there goes the Spirit,
Here blows the Spirit.
How will injustices cease?
Working through people, spirited people, Passionate people for peace.

Pentecost happens here in the city,
Festive or restive centre for change.
Tune us to listen, hear a new language,
Common concern where no-one is strange.
And then in the Spirit, your Holy Spirit,
Power and compassion are freed;
Signs of your people, spirited people,
City of God, come indeed.

On the Swag
Words: R.A.K. Mason. Music: Colin Gibson

His body doubled under the pack
That sprawls untidily on his old back,
The cold wet dead-beat plods up the track.
The cook peers out: “O curse that old lag,
Here again with his clumsy swag,
Made of a dirty old turnip bag.”
“Bring him in cook from the cold, level sleet,
Put silk on his body and slippers on his feet,
Give him fire and bread and meat.
Let the fruit be plucked and the cake be iced,
The bed be snug and the wine be spiced
In the old cove’s night-cap –
For this is Christ.”

In as much as you have done it…
Words: Colin Gibson

“In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

Spirit of God, passionate for justice and respect for the least of men and women, for the smallest child, for the frailest of the aged, you will not be content with our easy charity, any more than with our indifference to the crying needs of our community.

You take your dwelling beside the dead-beat, the drop-out, the redundant, the alcoholic, the drug victim, the different, the street kid, the disabled, the disadvantaged, the miserably poor, those whom life has beaten down and driven to desperation or crime.

“See, here I am,” you call. “I shuffle beside you, I plead with you: you have only to open your eyes to find my presence among your least-regarded neighbours.”

Spirit of God, inspire us to behave more justly, to take action against exclusion, oppression and neglect, and in so doing we shall find you strangely present in our lives.

Let Justice Roll Down
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

Let justice roll down like a river,
Let justice flow down to the sea.
Let justice roll down like a river,
Let justice be done through me.

Justice for all who go hungry,
Crying to God to be fed,
Left in a world of abundance
To beg for a morsel of bread.

Justice for those who are homeless,
Victims of war or of greed,
Trapped on the borders of nowhere,
Lost in the canyons of greed.

Justice for all who are powerless,
Yearning for freedom in vain,
Plundered and robbed of their birthright,
Silently bearing their pain.

But there are other impulses…
Words: Colin Gibson

But there are other impulses, other occasions in our lives when we sense the presence of the Spirit of God.

When we gather together in joyful celebration, there too the Spirit blesses our happiness and our community.

In festivals and processions; on anniversaries and holidays; in the merry mutualities of lovers and old friends; in stadiums, concert halls, entertainments, coming-out parties and civic celebrations. At the gatherings marking the great spiritual moments of our life, from birth to burial.

In the Church, you touch our hearts and minds as we gather together around the communion table; as we celebrate the great festivals of the Christian year, Easter, Pentecost – and above all, Christmas, when secular and sacred join together in a madcap birthday party for the Son of God.

The Folly of Love
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

There’s straw in the manger and babies in danger,
Some shepherds possessed by the folly of love.
The register’s ringing and shop choirs are singing,
It’s bargains galore in the folly of love.
It’s midsummer madness and every day badness:
The usual scene for the coming of Christ.
It’s parcels and wrapping, it’s fathers caught napping
And children awake in the folly of love.

It’s suntan and lotion, it’s surf and commotion,
It’s sand in the sandwiches, folly of love.
It’s crackers and candles, it’s shorts and it’s jandals,
Plum pudding in summer, the folly of love.
It’s friends and relations. it’s neighbours and nations
Enjoying a moment of peace and goodwill.
It’s crowds at the local, old aunties gone vocal
And “house full” signs up, in the folly of love.

It’s families united, it’s grandmas delighted,
It’s long distance calls in the folly of love.
It’s caravans, camels and fellows in flannels,
Three kings chasing stars in the folly of love.
It’s postcard madonnas receiving full honours,
Saint Nicholas wearing a cotton wool beard.
It’s trees hung with baubles, angelical warbles,
And God come to earth in the folly of love.

The clearest signature of your presence…
Words: Colin Gibson

Ah! there at last is the clearest signature of your presence, Holy Spirit, friend, comforter and abiding presence.
Not in the wind and fire of miraculous events, but in the small graces, the daily sympathies, the ordinariness of our common love for each other.
When that love is the truth of our relationships in action, when we exclude no one and nothing from the circle of our care and compassion, then the Spirit of the living Christ takes dwelling within us, and is known to us as we are known to the heart of God.

I Sing the Grace of God
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

I sing the grace of God within you,
I know that grace within my soul;
And when we honour God in each other,
We bring together one gracious whole.

I sing the love of Christ within you,
I know that love within my soul;
And when we honour Christ in each other,
We come together, one loving whole.

I sing the Spirit’s life within you,
I know that life within my soul,
And when we honour life in each other,
The Spirit forms one living whole.

I Read Your Signature
Words: Charles Brasch. Music: Colin Gibson

I read your signature in the rose,
And in the rock and the fabling sea.
I follow through every where and when
The lines of your face
And the print of your hand.
Yet write for me sharper on eye and ear,
Your form and name, my living bread,
That I may never go hungry more,
But even in the farthest galleries of air,
Wake and sleep – as though in Your hand.

Praise the All-Sustaining Word
Words & Music: Colin Gibson

Praise the all-sustaining Word
Blazing out against the night;
Inextinguishable flame,
Beacon burning ever bright.
Praise the calm, majestic will
Drawing endless good from ill.

Praise the never-failing love,
Patient to the end of time;
Praise the rainbow
And the dove searching ocean for a sign;
Praise the mighty storm of grace
Pouring down upon this place.

Praise the parent God of all,
Past and present, yet to be,
Praise the Christ, the child
Who showed love in pure simplicity;
Praise the Spirit life-long friend,
Praise till praise shall, praising, end.

It’s How We Live That Matters
Words & Music: Rosemary Russell

And at the end of the day,
It’s how we live that matters.
We all have hearts, we all have minds,
We all have lives to share.
Where there’s a will there’s a way,
It’s which way we choose that matters.
We all have a voice, we all have a choice,
But wisdom is rather rare.

If you live fast or if you live slow,
God gives his grace when you give him space.
He guides and directs, but lets you elect
The way that you let your love show.

And at the end of the day,
It’s who we live for that matters.
Live in God’s strength,
Its breadth and its depth are far beyond compare.
Where there’s a need, there’s a place
For each one to help the other,
To share in their pain, to share in their joy,
We all need to have friends there.

God is love, God gives love,
God shows love, we are God’s love.

To Enter into that Gate
Words: John Donne. Music: Colin Gibson

Lead us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into those gates,
And dwell in that house,
Where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
But one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes but one equal possession;
No ends, nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
In the habitations of thy majesty
And thy glory.
World without end,
World without end, world without end…

Credits

Performers

Instrumentalists:

Jonathan Berkahn: Piano, Accordion, Organ
Bernard Wells: Celtic Flute
Chih Leng Tahm: Celtic Flute
Jeff Abbot: Acoustic Guitar
Sarah Johnstone: Whistle
Carol Shortis: Bodhran
Asha Stewart: Violin (4-8)
James McNamara: Violin (4-8)
Heather Garside: Classical Guitar (2)
Chris Garside: Bass Guitar
Myele Manzanza: Percussion
Danielle Beaumont: 1st Violin
Verity Beaumont: 2nd Violin
Edward Aspey: Viola
Esrer Brown: Cello

Soloists

Janey MacKenzie: Soprano (1)
Felicity Smith: Soprano (6)
Marian Hawke: Soprano (12,15, 27)
Frances Moore: Soprano (16, 28)
Edmund Hintz: Tenor (15, 20, 22, 27)

Readers

Maureen Garing (13, 23)
Michael Keith (14, 21)
Ian Livingstone (25)
Barbara Vaughan Murray (11, 18)

Production

Musical Director:
Rosemary Russell

Producers:
Phil Homblow, Rosemary Russell

Recording and Mastering:
Phil Homblow (Vision Studios), Neil Maddever

CD Cover Design Concept:
Rebecca Gilling

Photographic Flame Images:
Asif Akbar www.sxc.hu

CD Booklet Design, CD Production &
Duplication: AMStore Ltd, Wellington

Recorded at:
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hill Street, Wellington

29 April 2007, 30 June 2007
© 2007 Festivity Productions Ltd,
PO Box 1325,
Wellington 6140,
New Zealand

All tracks recorded with composers’ permission
All rights reserved
FPCD2008

Festival Singers

Sopranos

Christine Austin
Patricia Donovan
Ceedee Doyle
Heather Garside
Barbara Gillon
Louise Hargreaves
Diana Helen
Carol Inge
Anne Keen
Audrey Misapeka
Gail Mustor
Janice Riach
Pam Southey
Paulene Woolley
Annette Zuppicich

Tenors

Joe Fecteau
Nancy Jones
Gordon Rutherford
Owen Sanders
Alan Spinks
David Zuppicich

Altos

Claire Beaumont
Rosemary Biss
Heather Collins
MoiraClare Donovan
Cathy Edge
Roseanne Graham
Christine Jamieson
Susie Jones
Marie Kitching
Susan Larsen
Vera Manu
Becky Mogridge
Wendy Nelson
Margaret Pearson
Jill Peel
Shelley Probert

Basses

Philip Garside
Bill Gebbie
Bryan Jones
Michael Keith
Ian Livingstone
Tom Lumb
Michael Miller
Brian Patchett

Reviews

Published in Spanz June 2008
(Presbyterian Church of New Zealand magazine.)

Reviewed by Roy Tankersley

Festival Singers is a well-known community choir with a history and practice of working alongside the Church through services and concerts. This album presents recent works by New Zealand composers that they hoped would appeal through the immediacy of the texts and he accessibility of the music. They have succeeded.

The first track opens with the poignant solo voice of Janey MacKenzie singing Virgin Birth – music by Colin Gibson and words by Joy Cowley. Straightaway one is linked to Rebecca Gilling’s beautiful cover design based around the image of a flame.

Talented performer and composer Jonathan Berkahn leads us into his spirited The New Song with its punchy dialogue between men and women. His Te Deum that follows gets to the heart of the text with its Celtic flavour throughout. This is no clip-on Celtic style – these are traditional sounds blended beautifully with the vocal lines. One wants to get up and dance when one hears the Irish folk jigs and reels in such movements as “Day by day we magnify you…!”

The tone of the choir is warm and gently vibrant while being well balanced. Although at times one may wish for a little more energetic edge, they sing from the heart with assured intonation and communicate the text throughout with subtle gradations of tone. The centre piece is Colin Gibson’s The Spirit Within, commissioned by St John’s in the City, Wellington, in 2000. (This reviewer had the honour of preparing and conducting the premiere performance.) Gibson tells of God, the majestic and awe-inspiring, whose Spirit surprises us in our dreams or a flash of light. He also provokes us to respond to poverty and injustice. It is good to have this work accompanied by string quartet, organ and piano with sensitivity and style. Four soloists and four readers perform well throughout the work and complement the thoughtful singing from the choir.

For the recording Festival Singers chose the wonderful ambience of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart – so much better than using digitally enhanced ambience. The CD is well engineered throughout and accolades to Rosemary Russell for guiding these spirited people with such creativity and understanding.

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Spirited People CD Review

Reviewed by John Thornley, in Music in the Air – December 2007

 Where blows the Spirit?
Where is the heart that should beat?
Only in people, spirited people,
people who walk on our street.

  Music © Colin Gibson   Words © Shirley Erena Murray

This new CD shares an inspired pairing of two significant and complementary longer compositions: Colin Gibson’s cantata, The Spirit Within and Jonathan Berkhan’s Te Deum, supported by individual items from Colin, Jonathan, Philip Garside and Rosemary Russell.

At the centre of this 30-track CD are the 19 individual pieces that make up Colin Gibson’s cantata, written in 2000.

I share a working definition for ‘cantata’, found in the 1992 Bloomsbury Dictionary of Music:

A sacred or secular composition for solo voice or voices, or for chorus and solo voice or voices, accompanied by several instruments or orchestra. A cantata will often by dramatic, but it is not intended to be staged.

Linked by spoken reflections, this work locates God in the indigenous landscape and seasons of Aotearoa New Zealand, using poetry and song to evoke the emergent Spirit for our land and people. Art song settings, reminiscent of Douglas Lilburn’s Sings HarryElegy and other song cycles, use poems by Anne Glenny Wilson, Joy Cowley, Ursula Bethell, R.A.K.Mason and Lauris Edmond.  Any and/or all of these could find a place within a worship service, with the words included in any printed handout.

Southerly Sunday is the title of the Bethell poem. The rhythmic agitation of keyboard notes pulsing under the ‘billowing’ choir harmonies evokes the southerly winds driving in on the poet’s garden home on Banks Peninsula, giving way to the soloists’ gentler interwoven melodies which beautifully capture ‘the sunshine/lacing, interlocking, invisible effervescence’ and ‘the laughter of light and air at play overhead’.

On the Swag is R.A.K.Mason’s classic statement of Christ’s humanity. To the accompaniment of a steady walking piano tempo, tenor soloist Edmund Hintz captures the lonely tramp, an iconic figure from the Depression era. The final lines of proclamation (‘Bring him in cook from the cold, level sleet/Put silk on this body and slippers on his feet’), now with choral voices rising to the crescendo sung declamation: ‘For this is Christ’.

Traditional classical settings, performed by piano/organ and a string quartet, are provided for hymn words by Shirley Erena Murray and Colin as wordsmith as well as composer.

Congregational favourites include These HillsLet Justice Roll DownThe Folly of Love and I Sing the Grace of God. Influences include the pioneer NZ composers, influenced by the example of English composers like Elgar and Vaughan Williams, along with a baroque setting for Let Justice Roll Down, whose opening bars recall the famous Canon by Johann Pachelbel. A particular delight was the repetitive patter of cicada wings heard in the staccato stringed arrangement for Anne Glenny Wilson’s poem A Spring Afternoon in New Zealand:

We rode in the shadowy place of pines,
the wind went whispering here and there
like whispers in a house of prayer.
The sunshine stole in narrow lines,
and sweet was the resinous atmosphere.

The second major work is a Celtic treatment of the Te Deum, with text taken from the Anglican Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (1989). Composer and lead performer on organ/piano/accordion is Palmerston North-born musician, Jonathan Berkahn. The Celtic Band members provide an exhilaratingly earthed accompaniment with Celtic flute, acoustic guitar, whistle, bodhran and violin. The treatment ranges from ecstatic dance to soulful folk ballad, according to the differing sections of the Te Deum liturgy – embracing an opening invocation to God, through praise/thanksgiving to petition/confession. The solid beating of the bodhran, the arpeggios on violin and accordion plant the prayers firmly on earth ground. And over all, the strong affirmation and prayerful reflection of the 50 voice choir.  It’s both deeply sensuous and spiritual.

Musical director Rosemary Russell, a member of the Titahi Bay Gospel Chapel, brings to the project many years of choral work, including the composition of original works. The choral singing throughout is confident and assured, with variations of men/women and solo/ensemble enriching the dynamics and texture of sounds. There is outstanding solo work by four sopranos, Janey Mackenzie, Felicity Smith, Marian Hawke and Frances Moore, and by tenor Edmund Hintz.

The production work by Phil Hornblow of Vision Studios, Neil Maddever and Rosemary Russell is exemplary, with great clarity of both individual instruments, and fuller group orchestrations, and solo and choral vocals. Intonation is commendable; the articulation of words is given proper attention.

A booklet, including the full words of songs and readings, is well presented and easy to read.

All material was recorded on 29 April and 30 June, 2007 with the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hill Street, Wellington, offering excellent acoustics.

A linking narrative, written by Colin Gibson, holds together the selection of song, poem and hymn, ensuring that the theological underpinning is sustained. The words matter, stating a clear message for the daily lives of Christians in our Antipodean home place, our 21st century times. Here’s the commentary that follows Folly of Love, a song coming towards to end of the cantata:

Ah! There at last is the clearest signature of your presence, Holy Spirit, friend, comforter and abiding presence.

Not in the wind and fire of miraculous events, but in the small graces, the daily sympathies, the ordinariness of our common love for each other. When that love is the truth of our relationships in action, when we exclude no one and nothing from the circle of our care and compassion, then the Spirit of the living Christ takes dwelling within us and is known to us as we are known to the heart of God.

The readers are Maureen Garing, Michael Keith, Ian Livingstone and Barbara Vaughan Murray.

There is a continuous narrative binding the 30 tracks all together. To quote from the CD booklet: ‘We are reminded that the Spirit of God touches us through all our senses in the rural landscape, and later we asked, ‘How do we see God in the busy life of the city?’  We are challenged to take seriously Jesus’ model of service and sacrifice, in our everyday lives. Finally, the choices we make really do matter to God, and this noisy world of multiple tensions will pass into an eternity of peace, in his own timeless presence.’ (CD notes by Rosemary Russell).

I love the way the recording, after a some times turbulent voyage of the soul, ends on a soft and reflective mood. The ‘lusty’ (John Wesley language here!) fulsome singing of tracks 26 (I sing the grace of God) and 28 (Praise the all-sustaining Word) gently subsides in to a Burt Bacharach-styled  jazz ballad by Rosemary Russell, performed to a blues-tinged café piano with a pick of  kiwi clichés as hymn words – a nice touch!

And at the end of the day,
it’s how we live that matters.
We all have hearts, we all have minds,
we all have lives to share.
Where’s there’s a will there’s a way.
It’s which way we choose that matters.
We all have a voice, we all have a choice,
but wisdom is rather rare.

The following and final track is a marvellous setting by Colin Gibson for some lines from the 17th century Metaphysical poet John Donne, lifting our horizon from our small land to the whole wide world, and from our earthly life to the promise of a heavenly home. Its sublime and rhetorical diction is at the opposite pole from the previous track, I did not know this poem but it’s a delight to discover. It is worth quoting in full:

Lord us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of heaven,
to dwell into those gates,
and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes but one equal possession;
no ends, nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
in the habitations of Thy majesty
and Thy glory.

World without end,
world without end,
world without end.

When the final notes quietly die out on the repeated ‘world without end’, the listener can only affirm the journey offered through the CD tracks, by saying quietly to him or her self:

AMEN.