Owain Park: Footsteps & Joby Talbot: Path of Miracles
Tenebrae, Nigel Short
Signum Classics. SIGCD471. 79’22
This release combines the re-release of a 2005 recording of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles with Footsteps, a companion work composed by Owain Park, recorded in 2016. Both are commissions by Tenebrae, the Park piece apparently in answer to requests from amateur singers for a less complex piece than the Talbot.
Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles (which actually comes second on the CD, despite the title order) starts with a movement based on Taiwan aboriginal music, where low voices slowly increase in pitch and volume, creating various overtones, until a countertenor (Mark Chambers) intones a pilgrim’s hymn. It is an extensive four-movement meditation on pilgrimage route between Roncesvalles, Burgos, León and Santiago using seven languages and texts from medieval texts and catholic liturgy. It has been reviewed many times, so I will go straight on to the new work.
Owain Park’s Footsteps is about a quarter of the length of Path of Miracles but, at around 17 minutes is still a substantial work, full of imaginative compositional ideas – possibly too full of ideas, a common occurrence amongst young composers bubbling over with musical notions. Gathering together an enormous collection of texts from eight authors, ranging from 12th century Buddhist Sanskrit poetry to Emily Bronté and Thomas Hardy, Owain Park conveys a journey through the four seasons with a subtext of pilgrimage. In what amounts to an almost note for note description of the composition, Park outlines the structural and textural background to the piece. Not surprisingly it has echos of the Talbot piece, but its evocative sounds and texture are individual and extremely effective. The 18 singers of the 2016 Tenebrae (an entirely different cast to the 2005 line-up) are joined by members of the Fellowship scheme of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. There are excellent solos from Emilia Morton, Nancy Cole, Daniel Collins and Stephen Kennedy.
I have heard several compositions by Owain Park recently, as well as his vocal group The Gesualdo Six (see here) – he is a young musician to watch out for.