Bill Douglas,
A Place Called Morning
(Hearts of Space, 2001)

This disc is actually not something I would normally listen to, but the title intrigued me. "A Place Called Morning" is a contemporary choral/instrumental work, and it is extremely well done. There is a great deal of emotion in the instrumentation, which picks you up and carries you along on the melody like a leaf on a stream.

A Place Called Morning is Bill's eighth recording for Hearts of Space. This is the fifth of those recordings that has featured the Ars Nova Singers, and you can see -- or should I say hear -- why, on the very first track. Incredible harmonies are sustained by some brilliantly written melodies. There is very little instrumentation, really, and not much is needed. Just light touches and hints here and there to emphasize the pieces.

Joining Bill on this disc are the Ars Nova Singers (conducted by Thomas Morgan), Bil Jackson (clarinet), Judith Glyde (cello), Ann Stockpole-Cuellar (flute), Peter Cooper (oboe), Yumi Hwang (violin), Ty Burhoe (tabla and frame drum) and Timothy Quigley (cymbals). Together, they make music to enchant by. All of the music on this disc was composed, arranged and produced by Bill, and it would seem his talent is never-ending.

The opening track is a work of W.B. Yeats, set to music. "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is a beautiful piece, and one which brings about a feeling of deep and enduring peace and tranquility. The little amount of instrumental accompaniment adds just the right touch of accent to emphasize the vocals. I've not heard many pieces put together quite so seamlessly, it floats by like a snippet of mist, lightly touching you and then gone.

"Forest Hymn" is a moving instrumental piece which captures the feelings of awe and reverence one gets when looking at forest giants -- or at least the one I get when I happen to go walking through the giants in our rainforest. The piano figures prominently in this piece, keeping a steady melody flowing while the other instruments take their turns joining in and then slipping away once more -- like the sunlight dappling the forest floor.

The title track on the disc, "A Place Called Morning," has the lyrics taken from one of Emily Dickinson's works. And again, Bill has done very impressive job with his soul-filled creation of melody to accompany the words. The Ars Nova Singers give this piece a feeling of sincere reverence, and it verges on sounding like a religious piece. It most certainly is a pairing which makes one think while they drift upon the melody.

Bill Douglas is a creative genius if this CD is anything to go by. A most restful and inspiring work which I shall enjoy for many years to come.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 14 December 2001

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