Tuesday 26 January 2016

Journey: Paul Phoenix and Apollo5

Journey: Geoffrey Burgon, John Brunning, Thomas Hewitt Jones; Paul Phoenix, Apollo5; Edition Peters
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 22 2016
Star rating: 3.5

Something of a valedictory celebration for this former Kings Singers

Though you might not recognise his name, the chances are that you have heard Paul Phoenix's voice. He was the treble soloist in Geoffrey Burgon's Nunc Dimittis which was used for the closing titles of the original TV series of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and then as a tenor he spent 17 in the Kings Singers. This disc is by way of a celebration and a valedictory as Paul Phoenix has said goodbye to the Kings Singers. All the items on the disc, from the Edition Peters label, have a strongly popular vein, with a variety of influences, but all are united by some fine singing and high production values with Paul Phoenix joined by a number of guests, notably the vocal ensemble Apollo5.

The disc starts off with Paul Phoenix singing a new version of Geoffrey Burgon's Nunc Dimittis which shows off his attractive lyric voice. He has the sort of flexible technique which has enabled him to blend in a variety of ensembles, and in the Nunc Dimittis he combines to nice effect with Craig Burnett's trumpet, Nicholas Riddle's organ. (If you visit Paul Phoenix's website there is a clip of his treble self singing the work). In John Brunning's Pie Jesu (from his 2006 oratorio Amazing Day) Phoenix duets with himself to nice effect. For Thomas Hewitt Jones' Child of the Stable's Secret Birth Phoenix is joined by soprano Andrea Haines for a short lyric Christmas piece with quite a strong musical theatre feel.

Paul Phoenix
Next comes Bob Chilcott's arrangement of U2's MLK which takes us to Paul Phoenix's Kings Singers days, though here he is joined by Apollo5 for a wonderfully effective and rather haunting performance. Paul Phoenix and Apollo5 join together for the next item as well, Alexander Levin's new arrangement of the Russian folk-song Oh you wide steppe. The result is rather striking and highly effective, and takes the mood and style quite a distance from the more popular vein of the disc and shows the fine musicianship from both Paul Phoenix and Apollo5.

Finally there are two traditional Christmas carols. Here I have to confess to not realising that the disc had Christmas content so it did not make my slot before Christmas, but I enjoyed the disc so much that I thought I would write about it anyway.  I was not to sure about the modern arrangement of the Coventry Carol though it is well performed, whilst Thomas Hewitt Jones' On Christmas Night is fascinatingly different to the well known version and again very musical theatre in style.

I was surprised by quite how much I enjoyed this disc, much of the music is different in style to that which I normally listen to, but as ever it is not so much style that matters as content, and seriousness of purpose. Here the music is beautifully realised and forms and attractive programme, whatever the season!

If you buy the disc through Paul Phoenix's Purple Vocals website then you get a signed copy of the CD.

Geoffrey Burgon - Nunc Dimittis
John Brunning - Pie Jesu
Thomas Hewitt Jones - Child of the Stable's Secret Birth
U2, arr. Bob Chilcott - MLK
Trad, arr. Alexander Levine - Oh you wide steppe
Trad, arr. Barnaby Smith - Coventry Carol
Thomas Hewitt Jones - On Christmas Night
Paul Phoenix (tenor)
Andrew Haines (soprano)
Craig Burnett (trumpet)
Nicholas Riddle (organ)
British Film Orchestra
Barnaby Smith (conductor)
Recorded at the Gresham Centre, 2015

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