CELESTIAL BIRD (Signum Classics) by Christopher Morley

Released in honour of the composer's 50th birthday, this CD bringing a selection of Roxanna Panufnik's small-scale choral music is one to treasure. Much of the content reflects her warm religious devotion, and these soaring performances from Ex Cathedra directed by Jeffrey Skidmore joyously respond to this heartening faith. But Panufnik reaches out beyond her own Catholicism to encompass other religions and cultures, as the stunning opening reveals. Unending Love, a setting of the Indian poet Tagore, is a glorious fusion of Indian ragas (here delivered by Milapfest and the evocative Carnatic singer Ashnaa Sasikran) and western choral tradition; the result is hypnotically magical. This whole disc has a heartwarmingly family feel to it, many of the works prompted by events involving people close to Panufnik, not least the St Aidan's Prayer, with her son Benedict Macklow-Smith as treble soloist. The insert-booklet is a delight.

Christopher Morley

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