Monday 1 May 2017

Music for devotion: Margaret Rizza's Celtic collection

Margaret Rizza
Margaret Rizza A Celtic Collection; Sarum Voices, Ben Lamb; Convivium Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 13 2017
Star rating: 3.5

A further collection from Margaret Rizza combining usefulness with melodic felicity

This is the second collection of Margaret Rizza's music on Convivium Records, produced in collaboration with the Royal Schools of Church Music (RSCM); see my review of the first volume, Officium Divinum. On this new disc we have The Celtic Collection performed by Sarum Voices, conductor Ben Lamb, with an instrumental ensemble.

As with the music on her previous disc, Margaret Rizza's pieces on this disc are gebrauchsmusik, designed to be useful. They are intended to be used as worship songs in services, some are simple enough to be sung congregationally whilst others suit a church choir, and many evoke modern chant. But they can also be used for aids to devotion, and people use the CDs in this way. The music for the pieces on the disc is available direct from the RSCM.

For this collection, Rizza has drawn her texts from the Celtic Christianity revival with prayers by David Adam and from Alexander Carmichael's book Carmina Gadelica. This Celtic theme brings an attractive focus to the music, and a source of slightly different devotional thought to the standard Common Worship and Book of Common Prayer.

Rizza has written the pieces with a variety of different instrumental accompaniment, using flutes (Mary Chelu and Tim Ruffer), violin (Daphne Moody), cello (Matthew Forbes), Oboe (Rosalie Watson), trumpet (Martin Ings), clarinet (Jennifer Tilley) and organ (Cathy Lamb). This provides for an attractive variety of timbres in the pieces, and gives an idea for what might be achieved in live performance. Some are four-part unaccompanied, other are more chant-based with Taize making a strong appearance. All the pieces are available as printed music from the Royal School of Church Music.

What lifts the disc out of pure practicality is that Rizza's music has a pleasing melodic facility which makes for attractive listening. And the anthems on the disc receive fine performances from the young singers of Sarum Voices, conductor Ben Lamb, sympathetically complemented by the instrumental ensemble.

Margaret Rizza (born 1929) - A Celtic Blessing
Margaret Rizza - Circle me, Lord
Margaret Rizza - May God shield me
Margaret Rizza - Awaken me, Lord
Margaret Rizza - In the Lord is my joy
Margaret Rizza - Be gentle when you touch bread
Margaret Rizza - The Lightener of the stars
Margaret Rizza - Jesu, meet it were to praise him
Margaret Rizza - Hymn of St Patrick
Margaret Rizza - A Celtic Doxology
Margaret Rizza - Christ as a light
Margaret Rizza - Supplication
Margaret Rizza - God with my lying down
Margaret Rizza - Gaelic Blessing
Margaret Rizza - Prayer of St Patrick
Margaret Rizza - Celtic Birth baptism
Margaret Rizza - Enfolding
Margaret Rizza - Trinity Blessing
Sarum Voices
Instrumental ensemble
Ben Lamb (conductor)
CD available from Amazon.
Music available from RSCM website.

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