This superb disc by the twelve voices of Musica Beata is beautifully sung and recorded. The disc takes its title from Moeran’s Songs of Springtime, settings of Elizabethan texts which, especially in Love is a Sickness evoke the madrigal settings of that era. The CD explores the secular English part-song from the late 19th century to the mid-20th with a fine reading of Vaughan Williams Shakespeare Songs of 1951. A personal favourite in this well-balanced programme, which also includes settings by Stanford, Pearsall and Bennett, is Elgar’s My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, here given a beautifully judged performance.
Musica Beata’s direct, unfussy, well-projected ensemble singing is admirable and hugely enjoyable throughout.
Choir and Organ, Jan/Feb 2013
review of the Three Choirs Festival concert published in Music and Vision magazine – September 2011
“Another choir that greatly impressed was the Oxford-based ensemble Musica Beata, now approaching its eighteenth year. Its final day programme in St George’s Church centred on secular British music — a sphere in which they have specialised and particularly excel — sufficient to showcase their many and varied talents. Britten’s Choral Dances from Gloriana (the opening item) alone confirmed the positive attitude and spirited attack of both top lines: assured, controlled, with decently formed forward and back vowels, lucid consonants, a good balance, finely shaded dynamics, and above all, soaring and blithe (as this extended operatic aubade should be).
The men matched them. Four soothing Elgar part-songs (Alice Elgar; McQuarie; Andrew Lang; and Tennyson) were attractively and stylishly executed, and perfectly enunciated also; but above all in the first half their patently thoughtful and capable conductor — Tom Hammond-Davies, former organ scholar of Hertford College, Oxford (and more recently associated with firmly established boys’ choir foundations like Magdalen and Christ Church) — produced committed, polished and refined singing from them in E. J. Moeran’s Songs of Springtime: a sequence which Paul Spicer and his Finzi Singers have scintillatingly recorded for Chandos (CHAN 9182), but which receives deplorably few airings in the concert hall (true enough, they pose a tough challenge for any consort or choir).
Of the rest of Musica Beata’s agreably varied English programme, Nicholas Brown’s On the Operations of the Sun, a modernistic effort requiring an ‘in the round’ performance and antiphonal (or polyphonal) effects by scattered solo voices, intrigued and delighted: partly because it is an intriguing piece, and principally because of the polished precision, the purity of execution and the patient care the voices, not least lower parts, took over the delivery of an interesting if taxing sequence.”
review of concert at 2011 Three Choirs Festival published in The Church Times, September 2011
“Arguably more affecting was a concert of secular items, sung by the Oxford-based choir Musica Beata under a capable young conductor, Tom Hammond-Davies, who has connections with Hertford, Magdalen and now New College. There was a buoyancy and uplift in their presentation, and involvement and a canny musical awareness, that made everything they sang sparkle. They excelled in a bizarre but gripping polyphonic creation, On the Operation of the Sun, by the choir’s co-founder, Nicholas Brown. Moeran’s Songs of springtime and part songs by Stanford and Elgar showcased the rhythmic flair and stylish musicianship of accurate-tuned of upper and lower voices alike.”